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Arizona Backs Off Its Speed Camera Program 513

Posted by kdawson
from the not-so-fast dept.
crimeandpunishment writes to inform us that Arizona is putting the brakes to a controversial and contentious speed camera program. The cameras have been used along highways in the Phoenix area and in vans throughout the state. While the cameras are used throughout the country, Arizona's program was the widest use of the technology, and the decision to drop it is a setback for those who argue that the cameras slow speeders, reduce accidents, and free up police for more serious matters. "The camera program was instituted by Brewer's predecessor, Janet Napolitano, now the Homeland Security secretary. Cameras were introduced in September 2008 and were added until all 76 were up and running by January 2009. Lawmakers considered repeal proposals within months, but set the issue aside and appealed for calmer debate when a passing motorist fatally shot a camera-van operator doing paperwork in his marked vehicle in April 2009."
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Arizona Backs Off Its Speed Camera Program

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  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rotide (1015173) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:03AM (#32125150)

    And school zones. While I was going out to get some errands done I hit a school zone. Flashing yellow lights held up above the road with a bright "20" lit up. Obviously a warning that school is letting out and the zone is now 20MPH.

    The road is a 4 lane (2 each way) and as you could guess where I'm going with this.. A SUV flies by me on the right and weaves through traffic doing at least 45. He/She also ran a yellow with a ton of kids waiting to cross.

    Absolutely sickened me. A bad slip up, unexpected lane change of another vehicle, or a simple miscalculation on the light and it could have been on CNN.

    I would happily support cameras on each end watching and timing plates. Ticketing anyone who speeds in a school zone during morning and afternoon student/bus/walker travel times.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:17AM (#32125314)

    Thing about speed cameras is that the focus rarely seems to be on actually getting traffic to flow at a safe speed.

    I've seen some good systems which focus on indicating to drivers when they're going too fast.(rather than trying to keep them from realising they've slipped over the limit so you can fine them)
    Traffic lights suspended over the road, if you're going above the speed limit it goes orange, then red.
    As you drop bellow the speed limit it goes green again, you only get done for speeding if you fly through the red.
    It sounds odd but since there are lots of them and people are used to them it's quite safe and it keeps traffic at a steady speed.

    With the current system they seem only too happy to let you speed as long as they can get money out of you for it.

    Imagine if you will a state where theft were punished only with a fine and then instead of trying to prevent thefts the police concentrated purely on issuing fines.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:34AM (#32125572) Homepage Journal

    Oh, and the fifth link down from your query is this: Literture Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries [nhtsa.gov]. I'll paste from the abstract of the first document cited:

    16. Abstract

    The relationship between vehicle travel speeds and resulting pedestrian injury was reviewed in the literature and in existing data sets. Results indicated that higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with both a greater likelihood of pedestrian crash occurrence and more serious resulting pedestrian injury. It was estimated that only 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour or less. This compares with fatality rates of 40, 80, and nearly 100 percent for striking speeds of 30, 40, and 50 miles per hour or more respectively.

    There are other documents in the report that go on to discuss photo enforcement efforts in Arizona, but they're not quite as relevant.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:43AM (#32125680) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, we have a lot of Department of Transportation (DoT) jokes:

    Q: What's orange and sleeps three?
    A: A DoT truck.

    Q: Why did the DoT worker boycott a Japanese company?
    A: For inventing a shovel that leans by itself.

    In Minnesota, we have two seasons: winter, and road construction.

    I'm sure there are others. But yeah, I do take the work zones very seriously. I'm scared for those guys, and I'd hate myself if I hurt someone because I was speeding through their workplace.

  • Re:no way back (Score:1, Interesting)

    by drc003 (738548) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:43AM (#32125686)
    Once you have prove that this is what actually happens after you start allowing these types of monitoring is it actually a slippery slope argument? I think that Britain shows proof of exactly where this type of situation leads.

    I'm thankful for Arizona citizens as a whole who obviously made their displeasure with this type of system clear and that it had an effect on the lawmakers.

    "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free"
    -- Ronald Reagan
  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bsane (148894) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:47AM (#32125734)

    So whats the relevant conclusion? That work zones should have a 20mph speed limit? Of course getting hit by a slower moving car is less likely to kill you. What is less clear is whether artificially low speed limits on freeways/hiways prevent accidents.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pantherace (165052) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:01AM (#32125928)

    Then there's the problem of things like 17 miles of 'construction with no work being done, unless the people in the cop cars were all the workers on break... (Nevada, in the that case, but Arizona, when traveling through it seemed fond of Construction zone ending, then ~200 foot ahead, another construction zone, and multiple times I saw a cop there.)

    I agree in principle with the idea of being careful about construction zones, but I'm kind of cynical about how the laws are, and the increased fines are abused by certain states. (Mostly those in the center and southwest of the US, but I haven't traveled by car much to the east for a while.) If there was work actually being done, fine.

    (Also, say what you will about California, in my experience, when CalTrans had a job, it got done in a short and reasonable amount of time.)

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Speare (84249) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:02AM (#32125952) Homepage Journal

    I agree that the vehicle itself led them on a somewhat simple trail to find the guy.

    However, what I found somewhat creepy was that they found CCTV of the same guy buying the fireworks in Pennsylvania, well over a month before the incident. Apparently, buying plain old 50mg firecrackers in PA requires a signature, an ID, and the video retention policy isn't just a week or less like most CCTV. Can they find video of your visit two months ago? Six months? How long before every Wal*Mart and ATM have a solid year of 30fps video for every camera?

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:04AM (#32125970)

    Y'know what gets people to slow down? A real cop, lighting you up, pulling you over, and having to sit by the side of the road (as you watch every car that was doing the speed limit glide on by for 20 minutes :) as you await your fate.

    Here's what I think would also slow people down in an educational way: A device reading the speed of vehicles (no camera needed), made very obvious, followed by a traffic light 50-80 meters further down the road which will turn red when someone passes the reading device at too high a speed. So that going at or below the speed limit is the fastest way to get through.

    Alternatively, since license plate readers should be getting cheaper, a reading device plus a display a bit further which displays your license plate, name of the car's owner and speed when you go too fast. A flashing light "reduce speed" on its own helps a lot where these things are installed in England; with the additional information I think it would work very well indeed to reduce speed.

  • Re:no way back (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dcollins (135727) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:30AM (#32126418) Homepage

    "Unless of course you actually are a terrorist, in which case, I hope a camera catches you the same way the one in times square got caught."

    You know the guy on camera had nothing to do with the attempted attack, right? He was just some innocent bystander taking his shirt off on a hot day, caught on camera, and thereafter imbroiled in an investigation which was wasting police time and inflaming the public as the actual terrorist almost got away? You know that, right?

    But I suppose that's more support for your, "Nothing to worry about; all the cameras are misidentifying suspects" thesis.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:36AM (#32126522)

    Y'know what gets people to slow down? A real cop, lighting you up, pulling you over, and having to sit by the side of the road (as you watch every car that was doing the speed limit glide on by for 20 minutes :) as you await your fate.

    Nope. I drive at completely reasonable speeds on limited access highways, which are often above the speed limit. I get a speeding ticket every few years. Most of the time they knock them down to non-moving violations. So every few years I have to pay $150 or so and usually have 1 or 2 points on my license. My insurance company does not seem to care.

    I more than make up that twenty minutes by driving fifteen to twenty over the limit for the next thirty thousand miles.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:41AM (#32126634) Homepage

    A couple of construction zones in Ohio do it differently. They have a guy in a truck with sticks to hog the whole road drive at the posted zone limit all day long, he slows down the idiots by making them not able to pass him. It's quite effective as all he needs to to is generate a "pressure wave" of cars bunched up and the average speed stays down.

    but talk about a boring job. all day to day you drive up and down the construction zone over and over and over and over....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:43AM (#32126672)

    No, it's incredibly rare for anyone to vandalise a camera.
    I spend most of my time driving around the UK and I have never seen a vandalised camera.

    Anyway, you should not be worried about radar type speed cameras. The insidious type is the "average speed camera".
    These are linked in with the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system database, and work by calculating your average speed between two points. By doing this they effectively track the movements and location of every car in the country.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:11AM (#32127232) Journal

    Speed limits are largely necessary, and usually appropriate. Your opinion on this is off in some corner, sulking over your last ticket.

    Speed limits are necessary, but that doesn't mean certain locales don't artificially lower them to raise revenue. Most traffic engineering studies I've read suggest that speed limits should be set for the 85th percentile, but they rarely are.

    My hometown has a stretch of highway that's posted 55mph. Pretty much everybody drives 65mph on it though. If you go 55mph at rush hour you'll get tailgated and have people swerving on either side of you trying to get past. It's actually dangerous to obey the speed limit in this instance and the roadway was designed for 75mph (as all interstates were), so why is it posted 55mph?

  • Re:no way back (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bryan3000000 (1356999) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:19AM (#32128408)
    Let's give him them the actual facts about the camera's role so people can get educated.

    A camera captured a picture of a guy taking off his shirt and glancing at the bomb-car. A totally innocent guy who glanced at a parked car. A complete red herring, one which fortunately appears not to have completely derailed the investigation. So at least they've learned that cameras aren't ALL that.

    I actually heard somebody on NPR make the assertion that cameras still provide good evidence because eyewitnesses can be unreliable and the cameras could *exonerate* innocent people. Well, at least somebody has contemplated some type of good, however rare and unlikely, that could come from surveillance cameras. Some good arguments were also made, about cameras taking officers off the streets with their huge installation and maintenance expense and the need to watch hours of footage to try to obtain evidence which may or may not even be in a recording.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:54AM (#32129038) Homepage

    Then I guess you haven't lived in countries where certain violations of religious law results in harsh penalties including death and dismemberment.

    I come from Texas. Some would say Texas is just as bad or at least a step or two better than Arizona. I am accustomed to the mindsets commonly found within Texas and I don't find them unreasonable. "Reasonable" is also quite "regional" as it turns out. I live in an east coast state now and the attitudes and mindsets are COMPLETELY different. Most notably, so far, is the matter of "complaints." Where I come from, people who complain [too much] are ignored. People who ask nicely, very often get their way or at least a polite and civil negotiation/discussion can occur. Out here, people complain first and then... nothing. No one here seems at all interested in opening a dialog with their neighbors to seek resolution to a disagreement or a disagreeable situation. It is most alien and unreasonable to me, but it is the way people live out here. But then again, the notion of taking retaliatory measures is not at all alien to me and is probably somewhat alien out here. Fact is, I do have a Texas temper which is why I don't want to own a gun -- too tempting to use it. What's a Texas temper? Well, the answer may vary depending on the Texan, but for me, I tend to be extremely patient and forgiving, but if you show clear and intentional disrespect, you just made an enemy, and that's not a word I use lightly.

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Friday May 07, 2010 @12:32PM (#32129704)

    There's also a whole bunch of stupid morons who welcome the ultimate nanny state and apparently won't be happy until every road and freeway has at most a 10 mph speed limit.

    They can only exist because there will always be an argument that speed limits should be reduced further because you can always find someone stupid enough to manage to get themselves hurt in or by a car, no matter how slow it was going.

    Society, especially those do-gooders, need to accept that individuals, not the state, have responsibility for their own safety, and that preventing any risk of human injury at absolutely any cost to society is a ridiculous road to go down. Removal of absolutely all physical danger is impossible to achieve in this world anyway.

    Apart from anything else, by removing all forms of natural selection we are really harming the human gene pool.

  • Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Friday May 07, 2010 @05:14PM (#32133504)

    I am also a citizen of Arizona.

    I have noticed fewer incidents of dangerous driving since the cameras have been deployed, and I have become a safer driver since I need to check my speed every few miles.

    This is all about an unrealistic sense of entitlement that some drivers feel to drive in an unsafe manner, and very little else.

    More people WILL die as a result of the removal of speed cameras, and since you have worked to remove them, the blood WILL be on your hands.

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