Photo enforcement on Loop 101 proves that extreme speeders are out there. But the bread and butter of Scottsdale’s freeway traffic camera program are the motorists speeding just over the system’s trigger point.
City Court statistics show 81 percent of speeding tickets generated by the cameras in a four-month period were for speeds of 76 to 79 mph. More than half of the 59,721 tickets were for either 76 or 77 mph.
The six cameras on Loop 101 between Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road start snapping at 11 mph over the 65 mph posted speed limit. That’s where authorities draw the line.
But the system chafes some recipients of the tickets, which carry fines that start at $157.
Elizabeth Hobbs said she was surprised when the city mailed her a couple of tickets after she drove on Loop 101 from her home in north Scottsdale.
Hobbs was clocked at 76 mph in May and June. She said she thought she was driving at a safe speed.
“People were passing me,” Hobbs said. “If people were pulled over by an officer, that would be more of a deterrent against speeding, and you’d feel obligated to pay the ticket. The system makes it to where you can get five tickets in one day even minutes apart. I am a law-abiding citizen, but when it comes to things like this, I’m not.”
Now she’s in open rebellion against the automated citations.
“I bought a deflector to put on my license plate so the cameras can’t read it,” Hobbs said.
The “11 and over” trigger point for the tickets was established to be in line with the standard for photo enforcement cameras on city streets in the region, said Paul Porrell, traffic engineering director for Scottsdale.
Arizona Department of Public Safety officer Paul Mudd, who worked the north end of Loop 101 for six years when it ended at Shea Boulevard, said he believes that 75 mph in a 65 zone is “plenty fast enough.”
Most of the people he pulls over for speeding are in the 75 mph range. However, he considers other factors such as the amount of traffic and traffic flow before stopping speeders, he said.
Mudd added that DPS officers usually allow a 10 mph over-the-limit buffer before pulling people over.
“We usually look for people who are catching up to traffic, or moving in and out of lanes,” Mudd said.
Porrell said it was “general practice for all agencies using speed photo enforcement cameras to set the trigger speed for 11 mph over the limit on arterial roadways throughout the region.”
No increase of that standard was considered for the freeway cameras, he said.
“We believe that the speed photo enforcement program has had a positive impact on speeding on the 101,” he said.
After a decline in the first month of the citation phase, the number of speeding violations caught by the cameras climbed back up to 29,402 between March 23 and April 22, the month with the most speeders so far. Scottsdale police have arrested several photographed motorists accused of traveling between 110 and 147 mph.
The cameras have caught motorists from all 50 states. And many motorists were ticketed multiple times, sometimes two or three times in one day.
Charles Hauver, 83, of Mesa was clocked speeding three times on Loop 101, twice at 76 mph and once at 79 mph while taking his wife to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, each offense on a separate day. Hauver said he requested a hearing and when he told the judge why he was driving so fast, one of the tickets was dismissed. Of the remaining two tickets, he paid one at a cost of $157 and opted for the defensive driving course at $120 to avoid more penalty points on his driver’s license.
“The trouble is, it’s a system set up so easy for people to get burned,” Hauver said. “I wasn’t driving that fast. I was just keeping up with the rest of the traffic. I think the city ought to be a little more liberal on setting their speed limits.”
State Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, said he doesn’t believe that mechanical devices should be allowed to issue speeding tickets because a machine can’t tell if a driver is impaired or if the vehicle is stolen. Robson supported a bill that passed this year requiring proper signage on arterial streets and the freeway to alert drivers of speed photo enforcement.
“Nobody in their right mind should be traveling 101 mph, but 76 mph could be reasonable,” Robson said. “The speed limit on most of the freeways in Arizona is 75 mph. Maybe the speeds need to be adjusted on the cameras.”
The photo enforcement pilot program’s effectiveness is unknown, particularly regarding freeway safety. Crash statistics along Loop 101 in Scottsdale for this year aren’t yet available, said Doug Nintzel, Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman. An evaluation of the speed enforcement pilot program won’t be performed until after the program ends in late October.