Arizona bills would rein in, abolish photo radar usage

| 2/8/2010

A handful of bills up for consideration in the Arizona Legislature would alter or abolish the use of photo enforcement on roadways throughout the state.

The use of red-light and speed cameras has been a contentious issue in Arizona the past couple of years. In 2008, then Gov. Janet Napolitano brought the enforcement tool to the state in hopes of eventually deploying a total of 170 mobile and stationary enforcement cameras and red-light cameras along state roads.

While touting the perceived safety benefits, Napolitano also acknowledged the economic benefit of cameras. She touted projections that the state would clear $90 million along one stretch of freeway in Scottsdale.

Critics of the enforcement tool, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question whether cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. OOIDA says the proof is found in the economic benefits highlighted by the former governor.

“The motivation of every player in this deal is economics. Whether it’s the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer, that’s not reasonable justification for doing that,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

Since then, like-minded lawmakers have been actively trying to get legislation through the statehouse that would rein in use of the cameras or get rid of them completely. Among the bills addressing the issue are two measures that seek to get rid of speed cameras on the state’s highways.

The first bill – HB2085 – would mandate that a citation from the photo enforcement system be issued by a police officer at the time of the violation. While the bill doesn’t repeal the state’s photo enforcement program, it does make it nearly impossible to operate by inserting the requirement for an officer to hand out a citation.

Another bill – HB2213 – would prohibit a public agency of the state from signing or renewing a photo enforcement contract unless it has first been approved by lawmakers.

Concern about “gotcha” tickets at intersections with red-light cameras is addressed in another bill – HB2238.

A violation for running a red light by a photo system could be given only if the vehicle is photographed at least one second after the signal turns to a steady red. Intended to avoid communities shortening the length of their yellow times, the duration of yellow lights would also be set by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

A separate effort wouldn’t mess around with any provisions to put limits on the program. SB1129 would cut straight to the chase and repeal the state’s photo enforcement system.

Whether any of the bills to restrict or banish the use of cameras will be able to advance through both chambers of the statehouse, the long-term prospects of the state’s program is uncertain. Gov. Jan Brewer has indicated she is willing to let the state’s contract to use the cameras expire this July, and allow voters to have the final say on the program’s future.

With that in mind, House Concurrent Resolution 2022 would authorize putting a question on the November ballot to ask voters whether the state and local municipalities may use cameras to enforce traffic laws.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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