Infinite Wishes: ♾️🧞‍♀️✨

Is a weblog by Emma Humphries

Traffic cameras don't stop speeding, streets designed to prevent speeding will (updated)

13 Apr 2021

Update: I attended a presentation with Oakland DOT, Assembly Member Chiu and others which provided more information on the proposal. I’m still not on-board with the plate reader part, but Assembly Member Chiu made it clear that he is aware that traffic enforcement by police and sheriff’s deputies put Black lives in danger. I’ll revise this post based on what what I learned today.

Getting police out of traffic enforcement is as important as redesigning our streets to prevent speeding. I’m glad that everyone behind AB 550, which I’m still skeptical of, understands this.


Oakland’s DOT and California State Assembly Member David Chiu (D, San Francisco) have proposed using cameras with plate readers to deter speeding.

It’s an expensive project to address street safety that doesn’t address the actual problem of speeding, creates privacy risks, won’t change the behavior of people who can afford to pay or contest speeding tickets, and puts Black lives in more danger.

It doesn’t address the problem

Speeding on Oakland’s streets (not just residents, but cops as well) causes crashes, and kills bicyclists and pedestrians. A camera doesn’t stop someone from speeding. Not being able to speed prevents speeding.

There are known and proven ways to slow down car and truck traffic and keep pedestrians and cyclists safe including: separated grades for transit, trucks/cars, bicycles, and pedestrians; roundabouts; and lights timed to make drivers stop frequently.

Spend public funds on infrastructure which directly slows down motorized traffic.

It’s a privacy risk

A database of locations and images of vehicle tags is a database to be maintained and defended against attackers (internal and external.)

The cost of maintaining the database and the expected cost of breeches doesn’t slow down cars.

Affluent white people’s behavior won’t change

Tickets and points from speeding cameras can be eliminated through contesting tickets, attending drivers schools, and other means which people of means can afford.

This won’t change this group’s behavior. But the proposed system will put marginalized people at risk.

It endangers Black lives

A speeding camera can’t kill a Black driver directly.

One may even think a plate reading camera will remove cops from the matter.

But a ticket can lead to a unpaid fine, which leads to an opportunistic traffic stop, which is where Black people are murdered by police.

Protestors have been saying the names of Black drivers who died at the hands of police for several years.

Even if one does not care about Black lives remember that trials, settlements for wrongful deaths, and protests are expensive and don’t prevent speeding.

Center the problem, not punishment

We know what the problem is: people speed causing accidents, injuries, and deaths.

We know how to make streets safer through traffic calming measures.

We need to make these changes in order to have livable cities.

Let’s implement the solution instead of an expensive non-fix that will harm people.

A roundabout won’t shoot a Black driver in the back.

The Oakland DOT/Assembly Member Chiu proposal will get Black people killed.

Correction: Assembly Member Chiu represents San Francisco, not Oakland. I’ve correct that above.

Replies to this post are welcome. You can send an email, or a WebMention. Be kind, not clever.

Send a WebMention