Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Caught in the act!

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.

For nothing.

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

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.


  1. I can imagine that’s pretty frustrating. There’s nothing worse than trying to argue with government or worse, a cop, when you know you’re right and they’re wrong. Sometimes it’s just not worth it, or could even hurt you financially and legally if you try to fight it.


  2. I got a ticket in that exact same spot. When the ticket came I photocopied my driver’s license and sent it back to them saying it wasn’t me. They dropped it. They will always drop the ticket if you fight it. They simply cannot prove it was you and since it’s your word vs. the word of a camera…you win.

  3. Hmmm…. I didn’t read the fine print carefully: it says you MAY identify some other driver; it doesn’t REQUIRE that you finger someone else. Apparently you could sign saying it wasn’t you and if asked, just say you don’t know & no one in the family is fessing up.

    Signing on the bottom, though, requires you to perjure yourself. Ethical issue aside, that strikes me as pretty risky.

    Another fine career that’s going nowhere: I’m too wussy to make a good criminal.

  4. Well, one advantage to living in Michigan, I guess, is that you need to have a real live cop capture the offense. There’s none of this camera capturing the offense and getting in the ticket in the mail BS.

    I can imagine the frustration though. I’ve gotten two speeding tickets in my life. Both times I was legitimately speeding. Both times the speed limit on the road got raised within 12 months where I wouldn’t have received a ticket. I guess I was ahead of my time 🙂 My wife has gotten one ticket in her life, for speeding in a school zone during the day where kids would be walking home from school. Only problem, there was no school that day. My wife pointed it out and the office says ‘Oh, I didn’t know’. Oh, really? You can’t see that there are NO KIDS or BUSES around that day? He gave her the ticket anyways. Jerk.

  5. Ick! I’m sorry. I guess that’s one way to raise revenue. But it sure stinks for all the citizens.

  6. @Money Beage – Similar deal where I live in Florida, except they can still ticket you for violating a “county ordinance” instead of a moving violation. Same financial effect, but I guess you don’t have to deal with the hassle of points, traffic school, etc, etc…

    The school thing is a bunch of nonsense – it clearly says “only on school days” on most of the signs. Sucks that the officer was too stubborn to realize his mistake.

  7. I’m betting if you call there’s some form of appeal. You make a pretty good case for it here. Just see if there’s a form. (I know you can appeal normal tickets, why not these?) Then you can just state your argument that the speed limit is not in view until after the camera, but by which point you were already deemed a speed demon and ticketed. If you can’t reasonably see the speed limit, I can’t imagine they can hold you accountable for not obeying it.

  8. @ Abigail: There is a form of appeal: You can ask for a hearing before a judge. Here’s how it works:

    You have one chance to elect driving school, which expunges the ticket from your record, removes the points from your license, and keeps your insurer from resetting your car insurance rates somewhere near the orbit of Venus.

    If you ask for a hearing and you lose — which you probably will — then you are found guilty and you HAVE to pay the fine. By asking for a hearing, you forego your opportunity to escape the expensive consequences of a moving violation, whether or not it’s fair.

    That’s a bigger gamble than I want to take. Going into what likely will be permanent unemployment, I just can’t afford to have my insurance rates go through the roof. They’re already so high I can barely pay the insurance on my house and car plus the taxes on the house. If they go up, I could end up having to sell the house and move someplace cheaper. I think that punishment is a little much for driving 16 miles an over an unreasonably low speed limit.

  9. Here is what happened to us recently. My husband got a photo radar speeding ticket while driving my car, which is in my name only. So the ticket came to me. My husband says he wasn’t speeding, and in fact remembers the incident and says another car was speeding on the opposite side of the camera just as they went by the camera. He was told by a friend of his to do like Tina (previous commenter) said she does – just state I wasn’t driving, and send in a copy of my driver’s license. I did some research online, and found this site:

    I bought the e-book which said I did not have to rat out my husband. Although I was uncomfortable not completing the ticket to its entirety, I went ahead and wrote that I wasn’t the one driving, and sent in the picture of my driver’s license. After all, that was the truth. I was not driving, and the photo attached to the ticket is only the bottom half of my husband’s face, so not really easily identifiable. I felt between a rock and a hard place. Who wants to rat out their own family member?

    The next thing I know, a letter arrives in the mail from the State of Arizona stating they are required by law to offset any refunds or overpayments to certain government agencies. We filed our taxes on an extension this year, and were waiting on the refund to arrive in the mail. Instead, the letter notified me that were taking our refund, and have applied it to “my” ticket. I now have to appeal within 30 days per ARS-42-1122. My husband says to call them and tell them he was the one driving, and he will fight it.

    My husband has also said he has heard on the news that the photo radar tickets do not put points on your driver’s license, so you can’t take the class. They just want their money, which he says is $190 total. Our refund was only $148.50, so I guess they will come knocking down the door for the remainder. Guilty and charged, and the money taken from us even before charged as guilty.

    What a mess. It’s especially frustrating to me, because while I do occasionally go five miles over the speed limit, I am very aware of photo radar and always follow the speed limit exactly in those areas. Now I’m afraid that our insurance rates are going to go through the ceiling. I don’t know if we can even fight the ticket at this point.

  10. Just wanted to share an update. I emailed and they said I should call and find out more about the ticket. As it turns out, the amount they took from our refund check was a collections amount for a ticket my husband had back in 1999! We found out about that ticket, and paid it off and took care of it totally in 2006. The lady at the justice court office said the state hadn’t been notified, for whatever reason. When the state sends the money to the justice court, they will reject it, and it will ultimately be refunded back to us. So the money taken had nothing to do with the photo radar ticket. If anything more happens, I will let you know about it. Thank you for allowing me to keep my anonymity.

  11. @ Anonymous Please: What an amazing story!

    For hevvinsake, what’s the statute of limitation on a traffic fine? Do you owe on a traffic ticket until you dive into the grave? And after that, do your heirs and your heirs’ heirs still owe? Nineteen and aught-ninety-nine was ten years ago! Two thousand and aught six was three years ago, and it should be a year enshrined in glory because that’s when you paid off the petrified fine.

    What on earth are these people thinking? And how can they be surprised when members of the public go berserk and start shooting up their photo-radar vans, “accidentally” hitting some poor wretch who happens to be inside one? Heaven help us!