Speed cameras are justified when used correctly - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Speed cameras are justified when used correctly

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Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 6:26 pm | Updated: 12:29 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Most speed enforcement cameras are going to remain in operation around Arizona at least until mid-2010. This will be good for the debate on the value of cameras in protecting the public versus their potential intrusiveness and displacement of patrol officers.

Most speed enforcement cameras are going to remain in operation around Arizona at least until mid-2010. This will be good for the debate on the value of cameras in protecting the public versus their potential intrusiveness and displacement of patrol officers.

It also provides more time for state and local officials to gather a comprehensive set of traffic safety statistics to better inform that debate.

The Associated Press reported last week that legislation intended to stop the statewide freeway camera program has been rewritten so the ban wouldn’t go into effect until July 2010.

Concerns have been raised about the heavy penalties required to cancel a contract any earlier with Redflex, the private company that operates the freeway camera program.

Meanwhile, several petition initiatives are being circulated that would essentially end any use of speed cameras by state or local governments. If any of those initiatives qualify for the ballot, voters would consider the future of speed cameras in the November 2010 general election.

We’ve said in the past that we support the use of speed cameras as a supplemental tool when government can’t afford to hire additional law enforcement to patrol dangerous locations. But our support always has relied on the expectation that such cameras would be managed in specific ways intended only to improve public safety.

That’s why we opposed how former Gov. Janet Napolitano created the freeway program, as its design was influenced far too much by the need to put more money into state coffers. We were further alarmed when it was disclosed in January that the state Department of Public Safety requires Redflex to collect video footage from each camera 24 hours a day for possible criminal prosecutions.

Still, early evidence gives some indication that freeway photo enforcement does prompt more motorists to drive closer to the speed limit and does reduce the overall number of fatal accidents. More information must be gathered, and it’s certainly possible the initial, positive results will turn out to be false.

Immediate reforms proposed by Rep. Sam Crump, R-Anthem, to further focus the speed camera program on safety instead of making money are worthwhile. But we hope Crump and the rest of the Legislature will keep an open mind to the possibility that speed cameras really do work.

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