Freeway photo ABCs - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Freeway photo ABCs

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Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 2:19 am | Updated: 7:47 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A new speed enforcement program is likely to start ticketing speeders on Loop 101 in about nine weeks. Scottsdale’s photo enforcement program would the first of its kind in Arizona, though it’s just being called a test for now.

The Tribune asked Bruce Kalin, who oversees the program for the Scottsdale Police Department, some common and perhaps uncommon questions about how it will work.

Q: When will the photo program begin?

A: Scottsdale plans to turn the cameras on Jan. 8. Violators will get warnings for the first 30 days as part of an extensive public education campaign. On Feb. 9, the city would start issuing citations.

Q: Why is Scottsdale going after speeders on a state highway?

A: The Arizona Department of Public Safety has been understaffed for years, leaving highway patrol efforts thin. Scottsdale officials have grown frustrated with speeding, collisions and deaths. The city will operate the program under the watch of the Arizona Department of Transportation, which still needs to give final approval. The agreement gives Scottsdale up to nine months to test the program. The city and state will collect speed and collision data to evaluate the program.

Q: If I’m driving the speed limit but the car next to me is speeding, could I get a ticket?

A: No. Unlike a police officer who aims a radar gun from the side of the road, this system measures speed with a sensor in the pavement of each lane. Each lane has a camera focused on it, and only the appropriate camera will take a picture when a speeder drives over the sensor.

Q: At what speed could I get a citation?

A: 76 mph, which is 11 mph above the speed limit.

Q: How much are the citations?

A: $157.

Q: Where will the devices go? A: On the Scottsdale portion of Loop 101 from Scottsdale Road to the 90th Street/Pima Road exit. Six locations are planned, three in each direction.

Q: Critics say the system could hurt safety when cameras flash. Could the flashes distract or blind drivers, or trigger rear-end collisions if drivers hit their brakes to avoid getting a ticket?

A: Police don’t believe the system will compromise safety because the flashes are only as bright as a disposable flash camera. Scottsdale has used the same flashes on red light and speed cameras since 1997. "We have not had a single documented report where a flash has led to an accident, and we’re talking about millions of flashes," Kalin said.

Q: Isn’t this just a cash cow for Scottsdale?

A: The city’s existing speed enforcement system was set up to roughly break even, and officials expect this to do the same. In the last four years, Scottsdale’s photo enforcement program lost money twice and made a profit twice. The bottom line: It made roughly $237,000. However, economies of scale could lead to more revenue if large numbers of drivers continue to speed as the program goes on.

Q: How many drivers does the city expect to ticket?

A: The city anticipates the devices will detect 350,000 violations. But the city predicts 198,000 will get — and pay — citations. The difference is because some drivers won’t match the description of the vehicle’s registered owner or because process servers won’t be able to reach the driver. Of the unpaid citations, about 10 percent will be because drivers refuse to pay.

Q: Is there any proven system similar to this?

A: The contractor that operates the system, Redflex Traffic Systems, has speed enforcement on freeways in other countries. The most similar system in Scottsdale is a midblock speed system on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard at 77th Street. That system started in August 2004 and issued 36 citations an hour at first. A year later, violations are down to 1.7 an hour. Scottsdale expects a similar drop on Loop 101.

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