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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Arizona County Says Goodbye to Speed Cameras

Could this be a sign of more to come? The sherif of Pinal County, Arizona, has recommended to the county government that it end it's contract with Redflex, one of the main suppliers of speed cameras to jurisdictions across the country.

The Arizona Republic reports that Sheriff Paul Babeu dismissed the cameras effectiveness in reducing speeds on area roads, and even noted that in some cases, the camers made road conditions worse.

"I'm against photo speed enforcement completely,' Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. 'Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably.'

"Babeu said speed cameras created dangerous road conditions and offered little financial benefit for the county. He plans to boost traffic enforcement through additional manpower."

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in this story is the lack of profit for the Arizona county, and the resistance of motorists to paying tickets issued to their vehicles, regardless of who was behind the wheel at the time of the infraction.

He reported Wednesday that the two cameras were activated 11,416 times from September 2007 through last month. Of those activations, 7,290 resulted in citations, but only 3,711 were paid, according to The Republic.

"Babeu said most of the total $134,199.43 in fines and fees from the paid citations covered administrative and operational costs, leaving the county with a net profit of $12,391.58 that Babeu dismissed as paltry.

"Moreover, Babeu said, total motor-vehicle accidents increased by 16 percent in the same time period, and fatal collisions in the Queen Creek area doubled from three to six.

"The sheriff said he couldn't be certain that speed cameras were to blame for the crashes, but he believes they were a factor."

A growing number of jurisdictions in my own, Maryland, are installing speed cameras, evidently hoping to make a killing off of motorists who essentially have no way to combat the devices. Because the units cannot identify the individual driver and issue a ticket to that person, the only way to generate revenue is to give the vehicle owner the ticket.

That violates the presumption of innocence and is the Achilles Heel of automated, vehicle-focused traffic enforcement technology, at least in my humble opinion. I think it's only a matter of time before a federal judge says this racket has got to stop.

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