Bags, cameras, checkpoints: the stars are aligned

I was on that last stretch of U.S. 95 two-lane from Havasu to I-40 recently when I decided a change of music was necessary. I was in the middle of putting Boxcar Willie's Greatest Hits CD back in the box when my cell phone rang and an oncoming red car moved into my lane to pass a slower vehicle.

I veered right, slowed down and answered the phone.

That's a lot of things happening at once.

There's a lot of things going on in Kingman and Arizona, too.

For instance, Gov. Janet Napolitano wants to expand the take-a-picture-of-a-speeder program to way more than 100 cameras. This is strictly for our own safety, of course, and the fact that someone thinks it will add $90 million to the state's coffers is a secondary issue.

Now I don't know how much an average speeding ticket will cost the average driver, and I don't know how many tourists are expected to shell out big bucks after being caught on camera. But $90 million would seem to count on a whole lot of repeat business from Arizonans.

We can argue all day whether ticketing every driver traveling 11 mph over the posted speed limit is actually making the roads safer. Driving 90 mph on I-40 doesn't strike me as being dangerous if the traffic is light and the sun isn't in your eyes. Nor does traveling 80 mph between Kingman and Vegas on U.S. 93.

And all this may be moot, since Napolitano's plan to expand the cameras-for-revenue (er, safety) program has met a somewhat hostile reception in the Legislature.

Closer to home, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office is also concentrating on safety with saturation DUI patrols for Super Bowl Weekend, New Year's Weekend and St. Swithin's Day. All well and good. They aren't catching too many drunk drivers, but maybe that's because people are less inclined to drink and drive because they know the MCSO, DPS and other law enforcement acronyms are lurking about.

But like the cameras that don't make us any safer, I'm also not a fan of DUI checkpoints and the stellar record they have achieved - way less than 1 percent of all motorists stopped by the cops are drunk. The remaining 99.95 percent are stopped for no reason at all because, well, because the cops can stop them for no reason at all.

A friend of mine suggested if law enforcement is really serious they'd set up a DUI checkpoint just down the road from a prominent, local social club. Yeah, that'll happen.

From there we leap to Councilman Tom Carter's hopes that Kingman will ban those little plastic shopping bags.

Mr. Carter is distressed by the number of bags littering the landscape when he goes for walks. It is my sincere hope this particular councilman doesn't walk by too many discarded beer cans, but that's another column, and perhaps, riot photos on Page 1.

I've got two issues with plastic bags - both are stuck in the now-bald mesquite tree in the front yard. One is too high to reach, the other is low enough to get to, but my limbs would be ripped to shreds by the thorns.

I've decided the best course of action is to wait for warmer weather. The mesquite will bloom and the bags will disappear until it gets cold again.

But just suppose Carter's dream ordinance passes, and never mind that an illegal bag south of Gordon is perfectly legal north of Gordon. Think also that Napolitano's speed camera measure goes nowhere, but imagine it's too late to cancel the purchase of 150 of the cameras designed to catch speeders and red light-runners.

With the stars thus aligned, I can see the city of Kingman in possession of 150 loaner cameras from the state focused on business parking lots north of Gordon. I can see police checkpoints at every entry into the city limits.

And I can see the cop leaning up against the driver's side door, talking patiently to me: "No sir, we don't care if you've been drinking. But these surveillance photos clearly indicate you exited the store with these four plastic bags and placed those bags in the trunk of this car.

"You can step out of the car, open the trunk and surrender the bags - and if you let me borrow that Boxcar Willie CD, I won't write a citation."