Slimantics: Skeptical chambers would increase the number of insured

Slimantics: Skeptical chambers would increase the number of insured 81 Slim Smith by Birney 6
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THEOn Friday, Columbus Mayor Keith Gaskin vetoed a city council decision to allow a private company to set up cameras in the city that would be used to ticket uninsured drivers.

Gaskin said he vetoed the measure due to ethical and legal concerns. A statement from a spokesman for the company that would install the cameras said the state attorney general’s opinion that using the cameras for this purpose is legal was not verified when the council approved the measure on April 5.

The motion passed, 5-1, so unless three council members change their minds, the council will have the four votes needed to override the mayor’s veto, allowing the new program to begin.

Once the cameras are in place, I guess people who are driving without insurance will have to take a city bus.

Oh wait.

We don’t have a city bus service, an idea that seemingly came out of nowhere 10 years ago: a something-for-nothing scheme that fell apart after a year of haggling, missed deadlines and inertia.

It may not be entirely fair to compare the idea of ​​the camera to that of the failed Lawrence Transit System bus service of a decade ago, but there is at least one troubling parallel between the two.

Both are ideas that no one asked for or seemed to have been considering. In both cases, a company representative simply showed up, introduced him (“Did I mention this is FREE??!!!”), and the board fell for it.

Both plans justified increased security given the potential impact it would have on residents.

While I don’t know of any rational person, aside from a libertarian, perhaps, who is in favor of people driving without insurance, I understand the reticence on the part of Mayor and Deputy Mayor Joseph Mickens, who was the only “no” vote. to the cameras.

The main reason people don’t have insurance is that they can’t afford it, either because they’re poor or because their driving record is so bad that it makes insurance prohibitively expensive.

I don’t have much sympathy for the latter, but at least I can understand the dilemma for poor people. As the mayor said, choosing between putting food on the table or paying the monthly insurance premium is a position that no one welcomes.

Under the chamber’s plan, those without insurance could pay a $300 fee and enter a diversion program, which would also require them to purchase auto insurance. The company that installs the cameras, Securix, splits that $300 fee with the city. Everybody wins, right?

Whether this is a good or bad idea largely depends on the purpose of the cameras and whether you think the cameras will achieve that purpose.

If the purpose of the idea is to generate revenue for the city and Securix, it’s probably a good idea, especially for the city, which won’t share any of the costs.

But if the purpose is to make our streets safer, count me among the skeptics.

I’m not too concerned about the legality of the program, as Securix already operates the system in Ocean Springs and has a sizeable investment that would disappear if the cameras were found to be illegal.

But I do believe that the idea that the program is going to significantly reduce the number of uninsured drivers is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human behavior.

People are going to drive, period. Those who can’t afford or get insurance will drive and take their chances. For those people, the cameras will only mean that the stakes are higher.

The notion that someone ticketed with these cameras will pay a $300 fee and purchase insurance suggests that person already had the means to purchase insurance, but simply chose not to.

That might fit in with a few people here and there.

But for most uninsured drivers, these cameras aren’t so much a deterrent as they are a calculated risk.

I don’t understand how this improves security, if that is the real intention.

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

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