The Traffic Scofflaws' War Against Big Brother - NBC4 Washington

The Traffic Scofflaws' War Against Big Brother

Battle intensifies on nation's roads

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    Santa's helpers gift-wrap a speed camera as a present to drivers everywhere.

    Traffic cameras are being utilized more often to generate money for local governments catch speeders.

    But a lot of drivers are getting irate over the practice, and they're fighting back. And they're getting pretty darn creative in the process.

    Pick axes? Check.

    Sprayed-over license plates? Oh yeah.

    Santa's little helpers? Brilliant!

    Nearly an entire Illinois town got so fed up with a red-light camera at a local mall recently that they promised to stop shopping there until the camera was deactivated, according to the Wall Street Journal. A losing battle? Nope. The citizens won. There was much rejoicing.

    Cameras are on the lookout for scofflaws from sea to shining sea. Cameras along Connecticut Avenue in the Chevy Chase, Md., area are seen by many as nothing but a money-making scheme for the affluent area's government. Cameras have also been placed on street sweepers in Washington, D.C., in order to sniff out parking offenders.

    The anger over these cameras seems to only increase as the number of cameras across the country increases. They may improve safety, but some studies show they lead to more accidents. And some are just plain tired of being monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call it photo-paranoia. Those who have it have reason to worry. According to the WSJ:

    Suppliers estimate that there are now slightly over 3,000 red-light and speed cameras in operation in the U.S., up from about 2,500 a year ago. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that at the end of last year, 345 U.S. jurisdictions were using red-light cameras, up from 243 in 2007 and 155 in 2006.

    So motorists are fighting back with everything from Web sites, GPS add-ons and iPhone apps to spray cans and cheerful Santas.

    Some of their efforts work. But others just lead to the government being more clever. There are the sweepercams in D.C., a "Plate Hunter" cam on a police car in New Britain, Conn., and cams on tow trucks(!) in New Haven.

    When will the photo-phobia end? That's anyone's guess. But the battle over privacy (or the lack thereof) has just begun.