Don’t believe any notice you get from the Department of Public Safety suggesting you have to rat out the person who borrowed your car and got a photo radar ticket.
It’s not true.
What the notice also is, according to state Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, is misleading. He said it is designed solely to generate money, both for the state and for Redflex, the private company that gets a share of every ticket paid.
In fact, Biggs noted, Arizona law makes the driver of a photographed speeding car the person legally responsible, not the owner. Biggs, an attorney and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said nothing in Arizona law actually requires the person who gets the citation in the mail — which, by definition is the registered owner — to help either DPS or Redflex find the person who was behind the wheel.
The only thing a vehicle owner has to do, he said, is send back a copy of his or her own driver’s license, complete with photo, to show that the photo of the person driving is someone else.
Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who is a former sheriff’s deputy and justice of the peace, said anyone reading the notice is likely to get a different impression. In fact, it says if you were not the driver and want out of the ticket, “fill in the driver’s information below, sign this form and mail it.”
The information sought includes not only the name of the motorist but that person’s driver’s license number and state of issue, the date of birth and the address, giving Redflex somewhere to mail a new notice of violation to try to get someone to pay.
Biggs, who has never been a supporter of the statewide photo radar system set up more than a year ago, said the wording is just part of what he believes is the problem with the whole plan in the first place.
“It’s intended to raise revenue, not to provide a deterrent to speeding,” he said.
More to the point, Biggs said Redflex has an incentive to convince people to pay up themselves or provide the company with someone else to pursue.
Under the terms of the contract, Redflex set up fixed sites along state roads to monitor traffic speed with embedded sensors and cameras to record violators. There also are mobile vans that use radar technology and cameras to do the same thing.
In return, Redflex gets a base amount $28.75 per $165 citation. But the firm gets the cash only if someone actually pays.
The actual amount the company collects can vary under the contract: It has a volume discount, with Redflex taking only $16.95 per paid citation.
Redflex is responsible for sending out the notices even though they bear the name and seal of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Shoba Vaitheeswaran, the company’s communications director, said her firm is simply following the lead of DPS in the wording of the notice and the companion slip that provides payment options. She also said nothing in the notice actually tells vehicle owners they need to disclose the name of the actual driver.
That’s also the conclusion of DPS spokesman Bart Graves. And Graves, whose agency approved the wording of the notice, said it’s not misleading.
“What they’re implying is, this is required by law,” he said, “which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Pearce called the wording in the mailing from Redflex to vehicle owners “absolutely inappropriate.”
“They think this is official stuff from the courts when they get this,” he said. “And they believe what they read, that they’re obligated somehow to violate their rights. And they’re not.”
A January report by the Auditor General’s Office suggests some people don’t know that.
The agency reviewed 550,000 notices of violations sent out during the first year of the statewide photo enforcement system to people who could have been the driver. That means the sex and race of the person in the photo matched that of the owner.
Out of that, Auditor General Debbie Davenport said close to 350,000 vehicle owners claimed they were not the person behind the wheel. But more than 100,000 owners did tell DPS who was driving.
Davenport said, though, the system maintained by Redflex has no way of detailing the number of people who denied they were the driver “and did not nominate another driver or provided insufficient information to identify the driver.”
Pearce said he is looking for a way to amend the law to require that vehicle owners be informed that they need not disclose who actually was behind the wheel.