Photo radar: protecting or profiteering?

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You receive a traffic citation in the mail. You throw it in the garbage.

These actions often go hand-in-hand.

In 2006, Redflex Traffic Systems installed the first fixed photo-enforcement cameras in Scottsdale along the Loop 101 freeway — the phenomenon quickly expanded. Arizona then gained the title of being the first state in the United States to form a statewide freeway photo enforcement program, according to Redflex.com. Phoenix, Mesa, Paradise Valley and Tempe followed closely behind, installing their own photo radar systems. Cities rationalize their use of photo radar as an efficient way to record accident statistics and flaunt their heroic pursuit of saving lives of citizens.

Photo enforcement cameras provide a handsome profit for cities by creating an easy revenue-generating mechanism. When cities witness others yielding a good earning off of a stationary camera, they figure, “Why not?” The fast money-earning method is contagious.

Photo enforcement is not as effective as former Gov. Janet Napolitano had originally anticipated, according to Phoenix Business Journal. Actually, Napolitano had predicted that the program would bring in $90 million within the first year, but it fell $53 million short after deployment. Photo radar has not been proven as profitable as originally anticipated.

Photo enforcement may have originally intimidated drivers. However, as an approach that could be neglected.

Citizens who are “flashed” are presented with a letter of options. It explains a choice of options beginning with: 1) Admit guilt and pay the fine, 2) Attend a defensive driving class (at your expense), 3) request a trial be set by mail or 4) tell them who the actual driver was.

Unfortunately for the city, people have discovered cheaper ways to approach these hefty fines. Unless you are personally served with your citation by a constable, they have become difficult to enforce. Tickets issued to people who are driving vehicles that are not registered to them, drivers that are from out-of-state and indistinguishable pictures have become difficult for officials to administer.

Is it fair that people with obscured photos are able to avoid citations while others are being held accountable?

If tickets were administered by a police officer, red light tickets and speeding citations would count as points against your license. Photo radar, however, does not appear on your license but only as a $181.00 fine, which is money for the city.

The group Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar is striving to legally force a ban against the use of photo enforcement. According to the ACAPR website, its motives are to preserve the rights of individuals and the need for effective law enforcement.

According to The Arizona Republic, 355 law enforcers are on the chopping block. With less officers in the field, the city will further its dependency on photo radar to bring in speeding revenue.

People against automated enforcement have argued that it poses a danger. People still seek to avoid this new form of technology by abruptly slamming the brakes. This can cause collisions that could have been avoided, according to John Dickerson of the Scottsdale Times.

There may be, however, fewer T-bone collisions and red light running, rear end crashes have increased, according to MSNBC.com.

There may be positive benefits to the use of photo radar, but the weakness it contributes negates them.

In the end, who is the city really trying to benefit: its citizens or its pocketbooks?

Reach Morgan at mptanabe@asu.edu