Photo enforcement cameras in Scottsdale are capable of detecting behavior such as text messaging or other "distracted driving" behavior, in addition to capturing speeders and red-light runners.
But whether Scottsdale pursues such enforcement as part of a proposed text-messaging and distracted driving law remains to be seen.
"We're able to see people clearly on their cell phones," said Josh Weiss, spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, the company that operates the fixed cameras and camera-equipped vans on Scottsdale surface streets.
Weiss is also a member of Scottsdale's Transportation Commission, which recently voted to recommend that the City Council adopt a ban on text messaging while driving. The commission also urged the council to look at expanding that potential law to bar any activity that distracts a driver from the road, like eating, talking on the phone or applying makeup while operating a vehicle.
Although the City Attorney's Office counseled that Weiss' participation in the discussion did not represent a conflict of interest, he recused himself from the commission's discussion anyway because of the potential for traffic cameras to identify potential violations of the proposed law.
The cameras snap photos of a car's license plate and the driver's face, if the driver is speeding or running a red light, Weiss said. Drivers captured on camera in Scottsdale currently can be cited only for those two offenses. However, it would be possible to point out such things as distracted driving, expired license tags or failure to wear a seat belt to police, who could then issue a citation, Weiss said.
Sgt. Mark Clark, Scottsdale Police Department spokesman, said he wouldn't speculate on whether the city would use the cameras to enforce the proposed ban on text messaging or distracted driving. The city has used photo enforcement images in the past to support the addition of reckless driving charges for people caught speeding or running a red light, as well as using such photos as evidence in stolen vehicle cases, Clark said.
Lt. James Warriner, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said photo enforcement cameras on Loop 101 in Scottsdale have been deactivated since July because of the ongoing construction to install HOV lanes. DPS eventually plans to install cameras at locations with a high number of collisions attributed to speeding, he said.
Warriner said Loop 101 in Scottsdale may not meet those criteria, and the cameras on that segment of the freeway potentially could be removed.
"If the criteria we have established is not met they will not go back to that location," Warriner said.
Shoba Vaitheeswaran, spokeswoman for Redflex Traffic Systems - the company with which DPS contracts for photo enforcement - said it's possible to use cameras to enforce additional traffic laws, but any proposed law would need to be explicit on what is allowed.
"Our infrastructure is there," she said.
The Scottsdale City Council likely will consider the proposed distracted driving law next month, officials have said.