Calling it illegal, immoral and Big Brother, some state lawmakers are moving to kill the 4-month-old statewide system of fixed and mobile speed cameras.
And one is urging motorists to ignore the notices of violation they get in the mail — though not necessarily the actual citation likely to follow.
The legislation crafted by Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, would repeal the authority lawmakers gave the Department of Public Safety last year to operate the speed cameras. Crump said the provision, tucked deep in the budget package pushed by Gov. Janet Napolitano, did not get the attention and committee hearings it deserved.
The result, Crump said, is a system that was sprung on Arizonans despite the state’s “proud heritage of leaving its residents alone.”
“I find that the photo radar and speed cameras are really a violation of that heritage,” he said. “They create a sense of ‘gotcha’ for our citizens and the people driving on the roads.”
What they also are, he said, are dangerous.
The law requires warning signs be erected ahead of each photo enforcement unit, whether mobile van or permanent.
“So the natural reaction is you’re getting a whole herd of cars slowing down, perhaps unnecessarily, creating an inchworm effect and creating the opportunity for rear-end accidents.”
DPS Director Roger Vanderpool, however, cited figures which show a sharp decline in accidents and fatalities in the first 80 days the units were deployed compared with the same period in four prior years.
But Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the numbers don’t necessarily support the conclusion that photo enforcement is the reason.
He said there are other factors that could be responsible, including motorists driving fewer miles because of high gasoline prices. And Biggs said he remains convinced the program is more about generating cash than saving lives, and done in a way he finds unacceptable.
“It is meant to be authoritarian, it is meant to take away freedom,” he said,
“It is an expansion of the Aldous Huxley ‘Brave New World,’ George Orwell ‘1984,’” he said, referring to novels about government control.
“Go back and read them, get a good laugh at them if you want,” Biggs said. “But you’re going to see that technology ... is now being used to monitor your actions.”
Napolitano has admitted the program is designed to convince those captured by the cameras to pay up and not fight the tickets: Offenses accumulate no points against a motorist’s license and are not reported to insurance companies.
Napolitano said she hoped to generate $90 million by June 30.
Biggs questioned that number. But he also said that assumes people pay when they get a notice in the mail — a notice he said they should ignore.
“You do not have to respond to a notice of violation,” said Biggs who is an attorney. “You’ve not been served properly.”
Biggs said in any other situation an officer personally gives a citation to a motorist. What is being mailed out by Redflex Traffic Systems, the company under contract with DPS to operate the cameras, is simply a notice that there is a picture of your vehicle speeding.
DPS Lt. James Warriner did not dispute Biggs’ contention that a notice of violation is legally meaningless.
“I’m just hoping that people’s conscience and their moral fiber will take hold, and do what’s responsible to do if you’re breaking the speed limit, if it’s definitely you” photographed in the driver’s seat, he said.
Biggs acknowledged that an ignored notice can be followed by having someone personally serve a citation on the vehicle owner, a citation that cannot be disregarded. He said, though, there are constitutional grounds for a motorist to fight the ticket.
Following Biggs’ advice, however, could have other implications.
He noted that some courts are allowing the cost of that personal service to be added to the $165 fine — plus $16.50 in surcharges — that the photo enforcement tickets carry.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “You don’t do it for any other violation.”
Biggs said the only reason for allowing those charges is the way the DPS contract is set up. It gives Redflex up to $28.75 out of every ticket which actually gets paid.