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Danehy

In Tom's world, photo radar can't be installed fast enough

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I've been writing for the Weekly for a while now, and I would bet that over the years, I've probably written things that have annoyed people maybe five or six times. Heck, maybe even a little more. Occasionally, I'll have people come up to me and ask, "Did you read that article in the paper? It's even stupider than yours."

I'll shrug and say something witty like, "I just write for it. I don't read it."

But I do read the Weekly. I always have. And sometimes, it drives me insane. Why, twice in the past month, I have visited the happy (imaginary) place that George W. Bush calls home, that place where reality is replaced with a distorted view of life.

A few weeks ago (April 5), my long-time buddy Jim Nintzel wrote an article about the coming use of traffic photo radar to cut down on the absolutely epidemic problem of speeding and red-light-running in the Tucson metropolitan area.

Doing his usual outstanding journalistic job, he talked to people on both sides of the issue, those who feel that saving lives through enhanced traffic-law enforcement is a worthwhile endeavor, and also those who feel that the gub'mint has no right to interfere with their "right" to get to the nudie bar as fast as they possibly can, red lights and safe drivers be damned!

Some people honestly believe that the cameras are just a scam designed to increase revenue for the gaping maw of local government. My response to that is that if we're going to help pay for police and other necessary services by sticking it to people who basically threaten my life every time they get behind the wheel, well then ... OK. Make it hurt. Take their money. Make 'em walk.

At the end of the article was a sidebar. (A sidebar is a smaller written piece that focuses on, and enhances the understanding of, a smaller part of the overall subject matter of the main article. I know this because, while I never took any actual journalism classes in college, I did watch Lou Grant religiously back in the late '70s and early '80s.)

Anyway, the sidebar carried the headline "How to Beat a Photo Radar Ticket!" And yes, it had an exclamation point! The sidebar had a bunch of tips for scofflaws, including registering your car under a corporation, hiding your address behind a post-office box or simply throwing the ticket in the trash and hoping for the best.

As a public service, I have a few other ways that you can avoid having to pay a speeding ticket: Don't speed. Don't run red lights. Leave earlier. Realize and accept that your destination is not more important than everybody else's. Learn how to read two-digit numbers. And, generally, don't be an asshole.

The sidebar also had some quotes from a guy by the name of "Radar" Roy Reyer. Here's one of those rules that will serve you well in life: Anybody who gives himself a nickname is almost certainly an idiot. It's like the Bradley Whitford character in Revenge of the Nerds II who introduces himself as "Roger" (Pause) "The Meat."

Reyer is identified as "a retired Maricopa County police officer." I've got a pretty good idea as to why he's retired, and I'd be willing to guess that he was a police officer in a Barney Fife part of Maricopa County. Reyer sells "radar buster" gear for hundreds of dollars and also sells plastic covers for license plates that he claims thwarts the cameras that take the damning pictures.

The general consensus is that the plastic covers are ineffective. It's also agreed that someone who spends hundreds of dollars on a device, the sole purpose of which is to allow the driver to break the law, should probably not be driving.

I've talked to dozens of people about this, and the idiots out there all have the same eerie outlook on things. They believe that they're "better drivers" than others and that their "skills" allow them to speed and disobey other laws. (They all also have this one really strange distinguishable characteristic: Every time they see a sign that says "Yield," they read it as either "Merge" or "Cut in front of the people who have the right-of-way.")

Those with "skills" are uniformly against the installation of cameras. They talk vaguely about it not being fair. One guy even invoked the term "Big Brother." Momentarily taken aback, I actually found myself hoping that he had read Orwell. But when I asked him about it, he described a character who, to the best of my reckoning, sounded more like Uncle Remus.

I explained to these people that there are already cameras in department stores and convenience stores, for example. And if you steal a pair of designer jeans, you're not running the risk of killing somebody. If you grab and run a six-pack of beer, you probably aren't going to leave somebody paralyzed, their dreams shattered, their families torn apart.

Personally, they can't install those cameras fast enough.

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