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Updated Feb 23, 2014 - 11:04 am

Arizona bill targets photo radar

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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