Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who was that masked man?

Dave VonTesmar is a 47 year-old Phoenix flight attendant who believes photo speed enforcement cameras on Phoenix freeways are just a money grab and he doesn't want to play by the rules.

So VonTesmar has been donning monkey and giraffe masks while driving on the freeway so when the traffic cameras photograph him he is unidentifiable.

VonTesmar argues that since authorities cannot identify him they cannot collect on more than 50 tickets issued to him and more than $6,700 in fines.

Not to be deterred, authorities photographed VonTesmar putting on the masks and have issued an additional 37 tickets for speeding between 11 and 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. Authorities believe they will be able to convince judges in three cities that VonTesmar is the freeway jungle boy and make the fines stick.

Arizona started using the speed enforcement cameras a year ago and has issued more than 497,000 tickets and brought in more than $23 million in revenue.

VonTesmar argues that the cameras are more about money than safety.

When I drive the freeways I usually set the cruise control about two or three miles above the speed limit because I know law enforcement will not cite me for excessive speed. Often, drivers blow past me in the passing lane traveling much faster than the speed limit. It is not unusual for me to later pass those same drivers as they are stopped by the side of the road getting a ticket.

Excessive speeds are unsafe. Accidents often occur when one driver is driving too fast and crashes into someone doing the speed limit. I have no sympathy for people who speed and who get ticketed.

I hope VonTesmar ends up paying for his traffic violations. Who will be the monkey then?

David Fierro is a transportation public affairs consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor. He worked for the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation. He resides in Sanford, Florida.

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