How quickly they forget. The scary novelty of cameras on Loop 101 — which led to significant reductions in speed violations as soon as citations began to be issued in February — has become to many motorists a more familiar foe to be eluded, even conquered.
Of course, the unblinking eye doesn’t rest. Leadfooted drivers who are once again ramping up speeds on the freeway are, once again, getting caught by the device in rising numbers. As the Tribune’s Mike Sakal reported May 6, the number of those caught that week rose to nearly the same number as caught the first month of the program in January, when only warnings were issued.
One explanation for this phenomenon is the large amount of publicity that Scottsdale’s maverick pilot program — the first time cameras were installed on an Arizona freeway — received five months ago.
Today cameras are no longer brand new and have fallen into routine. Despite warning signs on the roadway itself, apparently the cameras don’t occupy front-and-center status in many motorists’ minds. Of course, receiving a citation likely will jog many memories.
The last survivor of several bills to hinder or ban freeway cameras continues to languish in the House Rules Committee, as it has for weeks. We would like to think that this is the result of legislators slowly coming to the realization that the cameras have caught hundreds of motorists — whose velocities were an endangerment to others on the road — that conventional methods would never have caught.
Perhaps, too, they are coming to know that the technology is proven and the process to contest a citation in court is constitutionally sound. Perhaps some of them may have driven on Loop 101 lately and found that, even though the number of snaps and flashes is up, overall it is a much safer place to drive than it was before cameras were installed.
We continue to find it curious how photo enforcement’s critics keep switching between statements that it is either a “cash cow” filling the city treasury or a “costly drain on taxpayers.” If while catching speeders the cameras are making money, fine — it’s coming from people who are breaking the law. If they aren’t, then no matter: Effective law enforcement doesn’t have to make money. In fact, most of it does not.
Photo enforcement should not exist in a vacuum; in this space we have recommended just as strenuously that the state fund the hiring of more highway patrol officers as well as cameras. But when the camera experiment concludes this fall, the results in citations issued and lives and property saved should enable the devices to be used on more state highways, where the danger to life and limb is as potentially great as it was on Loop 101 through Scottsdale.