Arizona legislation puts photo radar under the gun

| 3/12/2008

An Arizona Senate panel has approved three measures that would limit, or outright ban, photo-radar enforcement throughout the state. A House panel endorsed a related effort.

The Senate Transportation Committee took action to thwart plans by Gov. Janet Napolitano to eventually deploy a total of 170 mobile and stationary speed enforcement cameras and red-light cameras along state roads. Local streets would not be affected.

The governor has been touting the use of speed cameras statewide since the city of Scottsdale used them for nine months two years ago along a stretch of Loop 101. The governor said the cameras that dotted a 7.8-mile stretch of the highway from Scottsdale Road to Shea Boulevard appeared to alter the behavior of drivers.

During the test period the cameras helped the city generate about $800,000 in profits, The Arizona Republic reported.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, the committee’s chairman, doubts the governor’s stated concern. Gould said he believes the real reason the governor wants the cameras is to generate revenue, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Gould points out that Napolitano’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year projects $90 million in net revenue from photo-radar cameras. That could increase to nearly $125 million the following year.

In response, Gould introduced three measures that would nix Napolitano’s plan.

One bill – SB1470 – would prohibit the photo-enforcement system on state roads. Out of concern the bill would not get beyond the governor’s desk, the committee also approved an identical ballot proposal – Senate Concurrent Resolution 1032.

The resolution is not subject to the governor’s veto because it would go before voters in November.

A third measure – SCR1033 – that also would go before voters is a backup. It would require that a traffic study be conducted to determine speeds on any road sought to have photo enforcement. Only drivers traveling faster than 85 percent of other vehicles on the same stretch of road could be ticketed.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety now sets its photo radar cameras to nab drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph.

Another bill approved by the Senate Transportation Committee would give drivers an earlier heads up about intersections with red-light cameras posted. Sponsored by Sen. Pamela Gorman, R-Anthem, the measure – SB1505 – would require that warning signs be placed 600 feet in front of photo-red systems.

State law now mandates warning signs posted at least 300 feet ahead.

Signed statements from law enforcement officers also would be included to verify that two such warning signs were in place at the time of the violation.

The House Transportation Committee approved a separate bill that would give a break to certain speeders. It also would put limits on speed radar use.

Sponsored by Rep. Lucy Mason, R-Prescott, the bill would reduce the penalty for speeding up to 11 mph in excess of posted speed limits from three license points to one. Drivers are required to attend traffic school after accumulating eight points in a year. Twelve points results in a license suspension.

Speeders caught by photo radar would get one free pass, of sorts. The first violation in any 12-month period could not be turned in to insurance companies.

Another provision would benefit drivers who speed past multiple photo-radar cameras within a short period of time. Violations within five miles and 20 minutes of one another would be reduced to a single traffic ticket.

The measure – HB2603 – now moves to the House floor.

The photo enforcement measures now await further consideration in the Senate.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Arizona, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor