Arizona Bill Targets Photo-Radar Law Enforcement

Republicans trying once again to take down speed cameras

PHOENIX -- Arizona Republicans are once again targeting photo-radar law enforcement with a new bill that would require cities and towns to calibrate cameras every 24 hours.

The transportation committee approved House Bill 2690 with a 5-1 vote on Thursday.

Bill sponsor Rep. David Gowan of Sierra Vista said the bill ensures the public has fair treatment when ticketed by radar cameras. Traffic officers calibrate their handheld radar guns daily, and photo radar should follow suit, he said.

"It's just making sure the public has due process, that's all," Gowan said.

Legislators have for several years introduced bills that quell or eliminate photo radar. Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law last year that requires state transportation officials to confirm there's a safety need before they allow cities to put photo-radar cameras on state highways. Three other bills that failed last session also targeted photo radar, including one that would have banned them all together.

A two-year state-run photo enforcement program ended when Brewer allowed the contract to expire in 2010. The Legislature has failed in recent years to ban its use statewide.

Gowan's bill this year also requires that any traffic citation issued from photo enforcement include the date and time of the most recent calibration, and that courts dismiss the case if the ticket does not show the camera was calibrated within 24 hours of the ticket being issued.

"What we ought to be concerned with is that if we're gonna set these things up, we ought to make sure that things are properly done for the public. I'm concerned these cameras are not doing the same process our officers are doing," Gowan said.

But the term "calibrate" is too vague to define, opponents said.

Tucson police Commander Robert Shoun said the term could be interpreted in many ways. For example, it could mean that an engineer would have to visit and work on each camera on a daily basis. That would be too expensive, he said. The city already maintains the cameras effectively, Shoun said.

"We believe our systems currently are very sound. We do believe in integrity of systems and are confident what we use today has that integrity," he said.

Tucson's photo-enforcement program began in 2009.

"We have shown that our cameras at intersections have resulted in a decrease in traffic collisions. We believe that's directly related to driver behavior being modified. Drivers have either been cited and it changes their behavior. Or they're aware the cameras are there, and it changes their behavior," he said.

Eight cities and towns now use photo radar on stretches of state highways.

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