Auto Tech

In Italy, frustration over fines leads to blown-up speed camera

A speed camera near Milan had been triggering complaints since its appearance two years ago. This week the frustration -- and the camera -- exploded.

Gotcha. A speed camera fires in France. If it'd been in Italy, well, there might've been a different kind of flash. Philippe Turbin/Photononstop/Corbis

Hate those cameras that catch you speeding? Someone in Italy may hate them a little more.

Earlier this week, an unknown party in Pantigliate, a municipality near Milan, blew one up just outside a tunnel.

"Motorists are tired of cameras that serve only to make money," read a couple of notes found near the site of the explosion, according to Art of Gears.

Speed cameras are on the verge of ubiquity in cities worldwide, especially areas that are either high in recorded traffic infractions or low on discretionary funding. The systems calculate a vehicle's speed, snap a picture of the offender's license plate and mail out a ticket, no actual officers required. Though it's true that police aren't omnipresent, and that relying on speed cameras lets them spend time on more serious matters, residents often rally against this type of hands-off policing. They're convinced that cameras and other such devices function not for safety but for revenue.

It's not the first time the locals near Milan have made their complaints known. In the two years since the tunnel opened, drivers have rallied against the camera setup in question, according to Art of Gears, grumbling that the speed limit is set too low and that the fine is inappropriately high. The fee runs €150 (approximately $167, £109, AU$232).

Rage over this new revenue source is not limited to Europe. As far back as 2007, the UK and Australia have experienced violence aimed at speed cameras, and the story isn't much different in the US. In Chicago, two law firms filed suit against the city for failing to adhere to the municipal code regarding payment grace periods and due diligence in notifying the ticketed.

Though the outrage over speed cameras isn't new, taking it to this extreme might only make the situation worse. The incident could promote an adversarial relationship between law enforcement and citizens. And somebody will have to pay for the damages. In this case, Pantigliate may wind up responsible for cleaning up the aftermath, despite all the camera's proceeds going directly to the Province of Milan.