Multiple bills target speed-enforcement cameras in Arizona

| 2/16/2006

An Arizona town recently became the first city in the country to use cameras to monitor speeding and collisions on a state highway.

Concerned about the path the state may be headed down, a group of state lawmakers are working to rein in the program before it can expand.

The city of Scottsdale received approval late last year from the Arizona Department of Transportation to install the cameras for nine months at six locations along a 7.8-mile stretch of Loop 101 from Scottsdale Road to the 90th Street and Pima Road Exit. Since Jan. 22, drivers who exceed the posted 65 mph limit by at least 11 mph have had photos snapped of their vehicles.

Until Feb. 22, speeders will be sent warnings. After that, violators will receive fines that will average $157, The Arizona Republic reported.

Among the legislation offered to rein in the Scottsdale enforcement program is an effort by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, to prohibit the use of the technology on state highways.

However, Verschoor has agreed to amend his bill to ensure the city can complete its nine-month demonstration.

The bill – SB1146 – passed the Senate Transportation Committee and has been forwarded to the full Senate for further debate.

The Scottsdale program is also being used to spin off other bills that would affect enforcement cameras on other area roadways, The Republic reported.

Rep. Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem, is concerned that the cameras will make drivers nervous, causing them to brake suddenly and “change lanes erratically.”

She wants all revenue from tickets routed into a state transportation fund for highway safety in case the state is held liable for accidents attributed to the cameras, the newspaper reported.

Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, is sponsoring a bill that would reduce the fine for those caught speeding by automated systems from $157 to $100. No points would be added to speeders’ licenses and their insurance companies wouldn’t be notified.

And Rep. Andy Gibbs, R-Gilbert, has offered a bill that would authorize the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles to charge municipalities $200 for processing each camera-triggered enforcement citation.

Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation Committee voted Tuesday, Feb. 14, to kill a handful of measures offered by Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, targeting camera use on streets and highways.

Among the measures offered by Martin was a bill that sought to allot $15 million from the State Highway Transportation Fund to hire 100 more officers. Martin said the additional officers would have been enough to adequately patrol Valley freeways and eliminate the need for speed cameras on any state freeway.

However, another bill from Martin remains active that would provide additional funding for the state police. It would use any profits made by the program to hire additional officers and equipment.

Another failed effort required the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures to randomly check the accuracy of hundreds of speed and red-light cameras operating in Valley cities every six months.

The panel cited fears that Martin’s bills would take away local control as the reason for voting against the measures.