The question is one of legality, rather than morality and it’s being posed by a former judge with two decades experience on the bench.

It all started when retired Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Jim Warme received a speeding ticket through the mail, generated by a school zone traffic camera. Unfortunately, a city ordinance does not allow the traffic cameras to capture the driver’s face, just the license plate and the speed of the vehicle. Whomever was driving was doing 31mph in a 20mph zone at Columbia Valley Gardens Elementary School on 30th Avenue in Longview.

Since nobody could be identified as the driver Warme argued that neither he, nor his wife (both registered owners of the vehicle) should be cited. The Longview Municipal Court judge took a decidedly different view and said that since nobody could be identified both the registered owners were at fault and liable for the ticket.

Ah-Ha! Warme said there is no statue which makes the registered owner of any vehicle liable for the actions of the person who was driving the vehicle.

The case is hardly over, however. Currently Warme’s case is on appeal, awaiting a final decision, but Warme seems to have the law on his side. A public referendum this past November showed Warme is not alone in his apparent disdain for speed cameras. Voters in Long View overwhelmingly approved a measure to take down all the speed cameras except those in school zones.

Anyone who successfully completes an online traffic school knows there is little point in trying to beat the speed camera. It works much, much faster than you do, and is just about impossible to beat, unless the law happens to be on your side. In most communities it is perfectly acceptable for the camera to snap photos of both the license plate and the driver so don’t count on using the same tactic as Warme.

The first lesson you learn in traffic school is that the best way to avoid a citation is to be a safe, defensive driver. You can try to beat the system, but the fact is, most of the time, the deck is stacked against you.

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