by Bob Barr
Any American driver who might occasionally like to put “pedal to the metal” on one of our nation’s many roadways had better take notice of provisions in the “infrastructure” bill signed into law recently by President Joe Biden.
In particular, freedom-loving motorists had best be aware of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s just unveiled Master Plan to pursue a target of “zero deaths” on America’s roadways. A key component of his plan is to blanket those roadways with speed cameras – technology controlled by government supposed to achieve a lofty, though unattainable goal.
The plan is, of course, based on the false premise that the Constitution provides the authority for the federal government to embark on a massive spending and control spree to eradicate all driving-related deaths on roadways across the nation, but who is going to nitpick constitutional principles when it comes to “saving lives?” Certainly not Buttigieg, or apparently anyone else in the Biden administration.
Another speed bump standing in Buttigieg’s way is that several states already outlaw speed cameras, and for good reason. In addition to their questionable safety benefits (some studies suggest they make roadways more rather than less dangerous), control and enforcement of such networks is often outsourced to non-government entities — companies that profit from each ticket sent out. These private companies do not have to worry directly about pesky due process, privacy and other constitutional rights that might stand in the way.
As for achieving traffic death “equity,” while Buttigieg argues speed cameras remove “racial profiling” from policing, he ignores studies that show speed cameras disproportionately hurt poor and minority citizens – a fact even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot admitted.
It is unlikely that few, if any, of the 32 Republican members of Congress who voted for the massive, $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill bothered to read its myriad provisions or, making matters worse, considered the consequences of giving Uncle Sam money and power to do essentially whatever Washington desires to make U.S. roadways “safe.”
The obsession with “safety” and the fear of not falling in line appears to have blinded lawmakers to even basic, common sense concerns about what is constitutional or in the best interests of citizens.
Buttigieg’s just-released plan to federalize virtually all vehicle travel on U.S. roadways brought to my mind a visit I made to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s while a Member of Congress. When driving from London to Heathrow Airport, it was impossible to miss the endless string of automated speed cameras along the roadways. I distinctly recall commenting at the time to one of the other members traveling with me, “I’m glad we are living in the United States where a Constitution and a written Bill of Rights protect us against such abuse of power by the government.”
How times have changed.
It seems clear that Buttigieg intends to use the power he has been gifted in the “infrastructure” law to direct billions in federal highway funds to pet projects and left-wing interest groups as a way to prove his chops for a presidential run down the road. He knows that once those dollars start flowing recipient companies, states and local governments will do whatever they can to keep the spigot open.
So, with the “infrastructure” law laying the groundwork for such intrusive measures as shutting down cars being driven in a manner deemed “unsafe” by a government-designed algorithm and an interlocked national network of speed surveillance cameras, what might come next? Perhaps muting a vehicle’s audio system should the driver be listening to broadcasts the government believes to be “unsafe” or that conveys “misinformation,” such as a Joe Rogan’s podcast?
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.