The Arizona Department of Public Safety did not wait long before putting to work its newest weapon against speeding.
Hours after two photo radar vehicles were unveiled to the media on Thursday, they started their traffic enforcement duties at secret locations in south-central Arizona.
Motorists caught speeding will not benefit from a warning period, and DPS director Roger Vanderpool said the cost of speeding citations will be left to the discretion of local jurisdictions.
With the hybrid Ford Escapes in place, Vanderpool said DPS became the nation’s first state-level law enforcement agency to administer a photo-enforcement program.
“This program is not designed to replace officers,” Vanderpool said. “It will not replace officers. It cannot catch the impaired driver, it cannot catch the fatigued driver, it cannot catch the driver smuggling dope — but it is a useful tool that can help us.”
DPS officials said they would not reveal the locations where the Ford Escapes were dispatched, but Vanderpool said the vehicles would be placed in areas with high rates of collisions.
He did announce that one of the inaugural assignments would be along state Route 347, the dangerous road connecting Interstate 10 with the Pinal County town of Maricopa.
Vanderpool said he hopes to have 20 photo radar vehicles on duty across the state, including three or four in the Valley and one in every highway patrol district.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the state has more than 6,800 miles of highways, plus associated ramps and frontage roads. During fiscal 2006-07, DPS officers issued 302,357 citations and 235,653 traffic warnings.
Redflex Traffic Systems, a private vendor based in Scottsdale, will provide the vehicles, technology and manpower for the program at a cost of $4,000 per month per vehicle. This pilot program is contracted for two years.
Each vehicle plus the radar and cameras costs about $80,000, Redflex engineering manager Bob Hervey said. But Hervey expressed hope that costs will decrease as more vehicles are purchased and outfitted.
The expansion of photo radar enforcement on Arizona highways comes after a smaller system was deemed successful on Loop 101 through Scottsdale.
In January 2006, Scottsdale launched its trial of photo enforcement cameras mounted atop stationary poles along the freeway.
After the cameras were turned off nine months later, a study showed an overall reduction in speeds, collisions and severity of accidents.
“And surveys have shown the public is, generally, in favor of it because it does get folks to slow down,” Vanderpool said.
The six cameras along the eight-mile stretch of the freeway were turned back on in February — at the request of Gov. Janet Napolitano, who also announced plans for a statewide program.
DPS began administering Scottsdale’s program in July. The current contract allows the cameras to stay on through the end of the year, with a possible two-month extension.
When the Loop 101 program began, Redflex was the operator. But in July, competitor American Traffic Solutions took over the contract with Scottsdale, including the Loop 101 cameras.