My criminal career proceeds apace. The other day I breezed past a camera in a Tempe speed trap and got a nice candid portrait of myself behind the steering wheel.
Get this: when you turn north off University onto Rural Road, you turn onto a seven-lane thoroughfare. It’s large, it’s broad, it’s well marked, it has a center lane devoted solely to left turns. It goes past no schools, no residential neighborhoods: it’s flanked solely by light industrial development and mini-shopping malls. Everyplace else along Rural and Scottsdale (as the road is called after it passes under the freeway a few blocks to the north), the speed limit is 40 to 45 miles an hour. That’s a reasonable and prudent speed for the entire length of the large main drag.
But right around the intersection with University, the limit on Rural drops to 35 mph.
Nowhere near the turn, as far as I can tell, is the speed limit posted. The first speed limit sign appears several hundred feet north of University…on the far side of the traffic camera!
In other words, you don’t get to see what the speed limit is until the camera snaps your photo!
If that’s not a speed trap, I’d like to know what it is. Indeed, the worthies of the Tempe City Council have actually described it in so many words. According to the minutes of their April 9 meeting….
Councilmember Shekerjian stated that this has been one of the top three things she has asked about on a regular basis and she appreciated staff’s efforts. People assume these are speed traps for revenue….
Mayor Hallman added that most people think a reasonable and prudent speed between University on the south side and the 202 Freeway is not 35 mph but 40 mph. Priest Road [the next main drag to the east of Rural, similar in size and design] is an example of being signed at 40 mph, just as University used to be, and part of his concern is the way in which staff’s memo suggests that maybe this was a City Council-driven matter when in 2004, Council requested that staff review speed signs.
He continued that in looking at a chart that shows 120,000 violations between December 2007 and January 2009, it doesn’t look good that the next southbound location gets only about 35,000 citations.
Doesn’t that frost your cookies? Today a ticket arrives, grâce à this bureaucratically sanctioned speed trap: $171.
In Arizona, you can keep points off your driving record and avoid having your insurance shoot through the stratosphere by taking a Mickey-Mouse “defensive driving” course. For a person who hasn’t had a fender-bender or a traffic ticket in over 30 years, such an activity amounts to a mind-bending waste of time. The face-to-face class occupies an entire day; the on-line version is said to consume a mere 4 1/2 hours.
Not only that, but if you opt to take the course rather than just paying the ticket, the cost adds up to more than the fine! Which itself is steep. This wee fiasco is going to cost me $188, plus a minimum of $270 worth of my time.
It’s pure extortion. They set up cameras where no limit is posted, give you a ticket for going a speed normal everywhere else on the road and on roads similar to it elsewhere in Tempe, and then force you to cough up a gob of cash if you don’t want to see your insurance rates skyrocket.
Okay, I’m forced to admit it: Rural Road actually is posted before the camera, just a few feet north of the intersection with University. Baaad dinosaur! But that notwithstanding: everywhere else the road is posted 40 or 45 mph, and in the absence of a school zone or residential area, there’s no reason to suddenly drop it to 35 mph along this seven-lane stretch. Posted or not, it’s still a speed trap.
Image of Maserati: public domain