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AZ Switches Off Speed Cameras For Privacy, Revenue Reasons

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Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

Last fall, we wrote about citizen initiatives to ban the use of traffic enforcement cameras in three small towns in Ohio and Texas.

Now, the backlash has intensified, with the state of Arizona switching off its 76 cameras altogether last Friday, when its contract expired with the private operator who maintains them, issues tickets, and bills the drivers caught on camera speeding on state highways.

The man banned, Tom Riall, is CEO of Serco, supplier of traffic cameras to the British government

The man banned, Tom Riall, is CEO of Serco, supplier of traffic cameras to the British government

Enlarge Photo

Pulled over by the police

Pulled over by the police

Enlarge Photo

Arizona joins Maine, which banned camera enforcement outright last June. With the latest addition, six states have now booted speeding cameras off their roads. (The others are Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, and West Virginia.)

The state was the first to adopt camera enforcement for speeders, back in October 2008, but it banned them for two reasons: Infringement on individual privacy, and a belief that the operation was intended only to raise revenue, without independent, peer-reviewed data demonstrating their impact on road safety.

While the camera system issued more than 1 million tickets, only about a third were ever paid, and the money collected was roughly one-third less than the projected $120 million promised by the operator, Redflex Traffic Systems.

Almost 500 localities now use red-light cameras, which seem to evoke less negative reaction than speeding cameras, currently in less than 60 jurisdictions. In some areas--New York state, for instance--public support for red-light cameras is strong.

Red-light runners are most likely viewed as a far greater threat to other drivers and pedestrians than are the drivers who run a few miles an hour over the limit.

Fighting camera enforcement tickets in court is usually fruitless, with conviction rates over 98 percent--which has led irate drivers to some unusual protest tactics. One Phoenix Subaru driver wore a monkey mask while he or she racked up dozens of speeding tickets.

But the cat-and-mouse game between speeders and the municipalities that target them for revenue (and road safety, don't forget that one) is likely to escalate. The latest wrinkle is ... wait for it ... satellite-based speed tracking.

You have been warned.

[The New York Times]

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Comments (16)
  1. This is a major blow to the 'industry' that speed cameras have become. Just like Tasers, they're overused and have questionable legality.
     
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  2. This is just something we have to live with although it is awfully creepy. Even if the government clains they aren't using cameras, you never know.
     
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  3. If conviction rate is 98% of those who try to get out of payment, amazing that 2/3 go unpaid. Are these people abandoning their cars?
     
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  4. I wonder what can you do to get he rate of payment higher? seems that this would be the main issue
     
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  5. Can they get rid of the red light cameras also?
     
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  6. As one of those who just got a ticket from these cameras I was blown away that I was issued a ticket for going 65 in a 55 on a freeway with the flow of traffic in the slow lane at 6:40am on a work day. Give me a brake! It was the third visit in two months driving the same roads in the same manner. Never got one then. What was different? The plates. I guarantee it was because I had out of state plates on that rental. I'm glad they are gone and my lawyer will be responding to my ticket.
     
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  7. Take one for the motorists. It's about time.
     
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  8. Arizona has the worst drivers in the country. People can't stay in their lanes nor can they figure out that you can go 10MPH over the speed limit at a camera. I moved here from California and I honestly fear other people on the road here. Just the other day, one guy in a brand new car did not stop at a stop sign and almost hit me, then getting onto the freeway the same exact car almost side swipes another car right behind me.
    I really do not understand how hard it is for Arizona drivers to stay in one lane without swerving around.
    It's even worse on the freeway when there's a curve of some kind.
     
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  9. Get rid of the red light cameras, too. Mostly, they catch people in their forties who don't stop for 3 seconds before turning right. Catching real red-light runners isn't profitable.
     
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  10. What spineless, irresponsible demagogues.
    Speeding kills, and unless people have a compelling reason to believe that they *will* be caught, they will continue to do it because it's A - seemingly efficient and B - more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
     
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  11. Red-light cameras just don't work ethically, so long as it's a ticket to the car, not the driver.
     
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  12. @Ethan: The old trope that 'speed kills' is not supported by solid data. The difference in fatality rates between 60 mph and 75 mph on an Interstate is statistically unimportant. And U.S. drivers are so unaware anyway that speed falls in importance as a contributing factor. Think cellphones, videos, makeup, texting, singing along in headphones, shaving while driving, eating, drinking a Slurpie ... etc. etc. etc. I've seen it all. Kee-rist.
    @Better Yet: State laws vary. Some states go after the driver's license of the car's registered owner, some go after the car itself.
     
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  13. The red light cameras in Illinois are being used not for people blowing through the red lights, but rather to those that do not make a "full" stop before making a right turn on red.
    This is NOT about safety, it is merely a revenue generator, and is there fore a case of taxation without representation.
    Corruption as the red light camera companies bribe (campaign contributions) the politicians.
    Protest and fight the creeping surveillance state!
     
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  14. Speed cameras are not an invasion of privacy. You are on a public road - you are not entitled to any privacy. Want that? Stay at home with the curtains drawn. Give me a break. Speed cameras have been used here in Australia for decades and the privacy argument (if it even ever existed here) was stomped ages ago.
     
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  15. Traffic cameras are simply unconstitutional. The 4th Amendment states that every defendant has the right to question their accuser. If your accuser is not a person, then how can you question them? You can't. Case closed, photo-radar ticket dismissed.
     
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  16. Justice - the photo taken on the camera is called evidence. Much the same as a video camera which captures a murder, would be considered evidence. The information on those cameras is recovered by law enforcement. You can question the evidence - either by mail or by going in person and viewing the evidence for yourself.
     
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