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What’s It Worth?

July 18, 2011

2000-2006 Chevrolet Tahoe photographed in USA.

Image via Wikipedia

How Much *Safety* Results From Radar Traps?

Greetings, dear reader, as the work in Bay City, Michigan continues and my garden withers from the drought and the heat.  On the way here today, when I exited the I-75 expressway, I noticed a Michigan State Trooper, in a full size Tahoe (or was it a Suburban?) parked facing the wrong way on the shoulder of an overpass.  Curious, I paid close attention and noticed that the engine was running, the windows were all closed except the driver’s door, and he was aiming a radar detector at northbound vehicles after they passed under him.  Which got me to thinking, how much does all this cost?  And what is it worth?

The Cost

We all want to be able to travel safely.  But the cost side of things kept nagging away at me.  There were two occupants in that Tahoe, sitting on the overpass, and according to this , a state trooper in Michigan on average makes a base salary of $18,000. With @2000 hours in an average salary year, let’s see: 18,000 dollars(per year)/2000 hours(per year) X 2 “agents” in the Tahoe = $18/hour for personnel.

An average Tahoe price here    is $45,000, and that doesn’t include the special police package necessary to sit around on overpasses with the engine running and the air conditioning on, munching donuts.  So if one estimates the payments on a three year loan that comes out as:  $15,000 (per year)/ 12 months/year X10%interest = about $1375 per month in payments.  How much for insurance?  Lets just call that an even $1200 per year as a *WAG*, which is a nice way of saying I don’t know, but that is an extra hundred bucks a month.

And then there is the fuel.  I know for a fact that one gets zero miles per gallon sitting still watching the cars go by and the empty donut bags pile up.  And these vehicles get 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, but they don’t do that when they are chasing a speed limit violator.  Let’s just say they only burn one tank of gas per day, that is 26 gallons X $3.67 (per gallon) = $95 and some change, but it is taxpayer money so we don’t count the change.

So, real roughly, it cost the people of Michigan about 18 bucks for two *agents* plus 6 bucks for car payments, plus 3/8 bucks in insurance, plus 12 bucks in fuel, per hour to be surveiled to keep travellers safe on the freeway.  Let’s see, that is 18 + 6 + 0.375 + 12 = $36.375/hour for this “protect and serve” service.  It is probably higher as these guys need some supervision, and office help, maintenance on the vehicle and other overhead, but real roughly I think it really costs $36.375 per hour to purchase this *service*.

The Sting

Not that it ever happened to me but I heard once, somewhere, that a speeding ticket costs like um about in the neighborhood of um like 75 fat green ones.  You know for a casual, run of the mill *you’re over the limit* speeding ticket, which would indicate that these guys sitting on the overpass ought to be writing at least two tickets per hour to cover their costs.  And from my own personal experience, I bet that they really are writing that many tickets, judging by the number of vehicles I see pulled over alongside the highway.

It just got me to wondering if it was all worth it.  This was just one instance.  And if someone was travelling faster than the posted limit and these guys were not there to witness it, would that be any less safe?  Would it be any more efficient?  Why am I posing these silly questions?

It just didn’t seem fair that they were setting up with radar pointed in the same direction as traffic flow, where they were invisible to drivers, and consuming public resources, to take money away from people driving on the freeway.  The cat-and-mouse game seems rigged.  That’s why.

What do YOU think?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 1:09 am

    Speed traps are bad, but seat belt enforcement zones make me crazy. I suppose the fines justify the cost, but really there is enough real crime around that the idea of wasting time looking to see if every occupant of a car is wearing a seat belt makes me see red! (Don’t get me started on the idea that there even is a seat belt law in the first place…).

    • Uncle Milton permalink*
      July 19, 2011 1:37 am

      Oh, you mean the lie about how seat belt laws would never be a primary enforcement?? Ha ha, joke is on…us.

  2. Repeal_The_Va_Radar_Detector_Ban permalink
    July 19, 2011 4:27 am

    As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of radar detectors. There is no evidence that the radar detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties and this ban may be ILLEGAL.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.

    Please sign this petition and help to repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

    Tell Friends and Family about this.

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