Multiple bills target speed-enforcement cameras in Arizona

| Wednesday, March 08, 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 have offered legislation 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 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.

For the first month, speeders were only sent warnings. After the first month, fines were levied with violators having been fined an average of $157, The Arizona Republic reported.

According to an analysis by the East Valley Tribune, Scottsdale could expect to collect about $21 million in fines during the program, which runs through late October.

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.

The bill – SB1146 – recently gained Senate approval and has been forwarded to the House for further debate.

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

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 to kill a handful of measures targeting camera use on streets and highways.

Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, offered three failed measures. Among those measures 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 the Valley area 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.

One other bill rejected by the committee sought reduce the fine for those caught speeding by automated systems from $157 to $100. Offered by Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, no points would have been added to speeders’ licenses and their insurance companies wouldn’t have been notified.

The House rejected a bill March 2 on a 27-27 tie that called for making it financially disadvantageous for Scottsdale and other cities to use photo enforcement on state highways. Rep. Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem, said she introduced the bill out of concern that the cameras will make drivers nervous, causing them to brake suddenly and “change lanes erratically.”

She was calling for all revenue from tickets to be routed into a state transportation fund for highway safety in case the state is held liable for accidents attributed to the cameras.

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