Tag Archives: photo enforcement

Arizona to end highway photo-enforcement

Governor Jan Brewer’s appointee for DPS director, Robert Halliday, does not like the cameras. No word on what he thinks of the  evidence that they reduce crashes and injuries. (see e.g. DPS press release, and ADOT study of loop 101 )

Also no word yet from the many legislators who have vowed to increase DPS patrols on highways, claiming that will enhance safety. Arizona faces record budget shortfalls, and it isn’t clear where money for increasing patrols would come from. The budge shortfall just got a little bigger, now that the Redflex contract has be canceled (well, not renewed) — because as the critics like to point out; the program made money for the state.

Unaffected are city-run programs, which are used for both speed and red-light running enforcement on surface streets (not on limited-access highways).

Arizona to eliminate speed-enforcement cameras on freeways, The Arizona Republic, 5/06/2010

Photo Red Enforcement found ‘illegal’?

Well, not exactly. After an article in “theNewspaper.com” (“a journal of the politics of driving”… an anti-photo enforcement website), the local anti-photo enforcement blogosphere Camera Fraud has declared that a FHWA letter will be “will be sending shock waves through the insidious network of red light cameras across the country”.

Despite the camera-foes’ protestations to the contrary, the FHWA has no legal standing, can not make laws, and is not a legislative body (For Arizona, the Arizona state legislature is); the only tie to the law is through the MUTCD; and “violations” of the MUTCD are common. In any event the FHWA interpretation letter refers to the extra ground markings in use being dis-allowed, and not cameras.

An image of the FHWA letter is linked at that article, above (here is the letter). I don’t know who this guy, Paul Pisano, Continue reading Photo Red Enforcement found ‘illegal’?

Criminal Speeding and Photo Radar

In Arizona, speeding, like most traffic infractions, is generally a civil matter — but “excessive” speeding, defined as above 20mph (and actually above 85mph on the highway) over the posted limit, is a class 3 (minor) criminal misdemeanor; it carries a theoretical maximum punishment of $500 fine and 30 days in jail. See §28-701.02.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has quietly recanted all or most of the loony things that he said back in February. I say quietly because Continue reading Criminal Speeding and Photo Radar

Photo unit snaps GOP party chief speeding 109 mph

This is just too wild to not comment on. Never a dull moment here in Arizona with respect to photo enforcement! Two weeks ago the world’s first photo radar murder and now we have a politician (he’s not a legislator, he works for the party) *arrested* for criminal speeding and reckless driving.

How will this play with the County Attorney’s pronouncement (see Thomas says no to criminal speeding) that he will not prosecute any criminal case based solely on photo evidence? Continue reading Photo unit snaps GOP party chief speeding 109 mph

Some guys REALLY don’t like photo-radar

…but this seems extreme, even by the standards of photo-enforcement opponents. Police are looking for a suspect who shot and killed a worker inside a photo-van parked along the highway. “Phoenix police released witness accounts of the suspect Monday, which described him as a White male in his 60s, with a thin face, white hair and a white mustache. He smelled of smoke. The suspect’s car is believed to be a white and gray 1980s Chevy Suburban with a roof rack and black rims and tires” — AZ Rep 4/19/2009

suspected stupid criminals vehicle
suspected stupid criminal's vehicle

Video revealed the suspect’s vehicle, which was somewhat unusual, an older model, and two-toned paintjob plus the roof rack. An unrelated DPS officer recognized the vehicle as a former neighbor and boom…. “Police on Monday arrested Thomas Patrick Destories, 68, of Phoenix on suspicion of first-degree murder” … what a moron. His story is going to be he didn’t know anyone was inside. It’s people like Destories that gives all gun nuts a bad name. The suspense now is what will he be charged with? I would guess they’ll go for 2nd degree murder (see here for list; and scroll down to table) “manifesting extreme indifference to human life…”, which may slip down to manslaughter.

More Photo-enforcement in the WSJ

On the heels of last weeks “front pager” — Jenkins thows in his two cents in today’s column The War on Short Yellows. His punditry is undoubtedly astute: “One Arizona sheriff recently proved you could get elected by opposing speed cameras”. He should have stopped there, since his analysis of safety is lacking. Firstly, he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t let on, the scope of the problem. To put it simply, traffic collisions are the leading cause of unnatural death for all Americans (link to reference here)… this is a huge problem.

And the problem is even worse in Arizona; something he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about. Arizona rates (even after some fairly large improvements in recent years) far above US averages in both per capita fatalities, and fatalities per 100M VMT. So it should probably come as no surprise that the authorities in Arizona are trying out things like photo-enforcement. Which he, reflexively, believes is basically a jack-booted government gone wild.

He goes with the typical cannard — that supposedly the collisions prevented represent only a small fraction of all collisions. His exact stat was “Consider: Red-light running and speeding, the two main uses of traffic cameras, are implicated in fewer than 8% of accidents”.  He doesn’t reveal a source (possibly a talking point from the NMA?), I’m guessing it is 3% + 5%, and also guessing it’s the national causastion survey. In any event, the weakness is that these collisions are far more freqently fatal. Arizona has a particularly high fatal red-light running rate.

He even brings up Britian, yet he either doesn’t know, or doesn’t let on that Britian experienced a precitious decline in fatality rates through the 1990’s — coincident with the rise in photo-enforcement. Are the two related? One wonders, but Jenkins apparently doesn’t care or wonder. By the way, fatality rates are far below US rates (both per capita, and per VMT).

His solution? lengthen yellow lights. This would undoubtedly reduce violations. But unless the yellow is “short” (shorter than engineering standards) there’s no indication this would reduce collisions, though. And as to the other ten’s of thousands of deaths annually? Well he doesn’t even have a suggestion for that.

Photo Enforcement in the mainstream media

The WSJ (news side) did a story on photo enforcement. Since there’s so much activity on this issue in Arizona, we figured prominently in the story.

Overall, it strikes me that it was fairly typical of such stories. The point of view of photo enforcement opponents, “it’s all about the money” is well represented, and I think that’s fair. But what troubles me, though, is the lightweight treatment of the safety aspects and the science involved. Consider:

Studies are mixed on whether traffic cameras improve safety. Some research indicates they may increase rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes when they see posted camera notices…

A study of crash causes released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last July found about 5% of crashes were due to traveling too fast and 2% were from running red lights. Driving off the side of the road, falling asleep at the wheel and crossing the center lines were the biggest causes identified.

Get the Feeling You’re Being Watched? If You’re Driving, You Just Might Be. William M. Bulkeley, the Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2009, p. A1

The truth, or rather, the problem with that analysis is it ignores the relative severity of rear-end vs. an intersection collision. The 5% figure is interesting and misleading at the same time. It refers to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.

The article also talks about use of automated license plate reading technology being used for other (not traffic enforcement) uses, such as catching those with outstanding fines or whatnot.

Meanwhile, just wandering around the internet, I noticed the author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), a wonderful book by the way, Tom Vanderbuilt, blogged on the same article as well, with similar criticisms “to compare them so casually is typical of myopic mainstream-media reporting when it comes to traffic safety”. He also puts traffic dangerousness into terms of it being an externality of driving, just one of many, of course.

28-672 in the news

[ There have been many changes to this law, most recently in 2018, see history, below]

Prosecutors routinely decline to prosecute negligent drivers who kill/injure. Nearly without exception, they will only seek homicide (i.e. negligent homicide, or manslaughter) / aggravated assault charges if the driver is impaired. Short of that, the hurdle, in the minds of prosecutors, is very very high.

Arizona has no vehicular homicide law, it does however since 1998 have a law, §28-672, ” Causing serious physical injury or death by a moving violation” (and some companion laws 28-675 and 6 which work in an analogous fashion). The catch is that in order to be charged with 28-672, the driver must have been engaging in one or more of a specific list of infractions. For example, running a red light. Continue reading 28-672 in the news

DPS says photo radar major factor in drastic fatality reduction

Arizona DPS in a press release Dec 29, 2008 cited photo radar as a major factor in a 59% decrease in fatal crashes for the 80 days of “enhanced” photo-radar enforcement, compared to the same period in prior years on Phoenix metro highways.

A modest decrease in miles driven is also a factor.

The statewide fatality decrease in 2007 (over 2006) was dramatic, and it remains to be seen how this will compare to full AZ 2008 stats.

Photo enforcement remains controversial but report by ASU Civil Engineering professor Simon Washington  Evaluation of the City of Scottsdale Loop 101 Photo Enforcement Demonstration Program confirms not only safety benefits but also time and financial savings due to reduction in crashes.

On the other hand, critics claim that the cameras have no effect on safety; the most strident claim that cameras cause an overall increase in crashes — but so far at least that is all they are, claims.

the enabling legislation for the so-called enhanced photo (DPS / state-run) is 48th 2nd regular session HB 2210 “budget reconciliation; criminal justice” (which is very long and has lots of stuff in it; it was also apparently a striker because the original name was “regents; scholarships;”), see  §41-1722, [some updates 3/1/2013 — much has changed, in particular it looks like that statue is now missing due to repeal, see all of chapter 41; also see process-servers-and-personal-jurisdiction] which among other things gets rid of points, and changes (see changes to  process service requirement.

General rules for commencing a civil traffic violation “by filing” (photo tickets are filed as opposed to issued) are specified in 28-1592 and 28-1593; say that complaints must be filed within 60 days and served within 90 days from filing. There are exceptions if the incident involves a traffic collision and investigation. Do these rules apply to photo tickets? dunno, as far as i can see there are no alternatives. And how this jives with Rule 4(d), i dunno either, see below.

Here are a bunch of “emergency changes” to the Arizona rules of civil procedure, effective Sept 2008. These are mostly regarding the complaint and service provisions of phot0-radar violations.

There was an article in June 2009 issue of Perfectify magazine written by Arizona Attorney Monica Lindstrom Smile for the Camera (p.44). It gives some general background regarding service requirements

Under Arizona rules of civil procedure, Rule 4(d), a complaint must be served within 120 days. for purposes of a photo radar ticket, the “complaint” is the ticket and it is typically considered filed on the day of the violation (the day you were speeding or ran the red light). In other words, the government has 120 days to serve you with the ticket. If it fails to do so, then the ticket is dismissed — unless the government asks for more time. Beware some cities are using “alternative service” which can be by publication in a newspaper or posting it on your door. I recommend keeping up with the news in your area and doing periodic internet searchs to see if your city/town/county is employing this sneaky method.

I am not aware of any such “alternative service”.??

Strangely/inexplicably, she seems to not understand that there are no points associated with photo radar (speed cameras).


Thomas says no to criminal speeding

In a surprise move (a surprise to DPS, that is. Is this more politics than law?), Maricopa county attorney Andrew Thomas announced (Feb 24,2009) that his office will not charge motorists flashed at 20+ over with “criminal” speeding. Cities within Maricopa county, as well as everywhere outside of Maricopa are not affected by Thomas’ decision.It wasn’t clear to me if the DPS photo citations go to the city, or to the county by default (I’m guessing they go to the county?).

His whole explanation is silly; e.g. his claim that it is unconstitutional since “you can’t cross-examine a camera”. This is absurd, how does he support any other machine-based evidence? breathalyzers (or blood analysis machines), photographs, surveillance videos, wiretaps and so forth. they can’t be cross examined either.

In Arizona, criminal speeding is defined by §28-701.02 “Excessive Speeds, Classification”. The reference to 20 over isn’t completely accurate on the highway, it refers to over 85mph — i.e. 20 over if the posted limit is 65mph, but 30 over if it is 55. The general reasoning, which is said to be an “informal” opinion is that criminal requires a higher burden of proof than photo-radar alone can provide and as such they will decline any such cases. The DPS has indicated it will request a formal opinion on the matter from the Attorney General.

Attorney General says yes to criminal speeding

That didn’t take long. In a Feb 27th memorandum, Attorney General Terry Goddard knocked Thomas’ claims; “Mr. Thomas’ anecdotal explanations of potential abuses of the criminal process based on the use of photo radar do not provide a reasoned basis for an assertion that photo radar cannot be used to establish a criminal violation.”

“Arizona courts have similarly authorized evidence derived from other types of devices, such as video-tape recorders or cameras… there is no reason to believe the same rule would not be followed by Arizona appellate courts were the issue to be raised here.”

“Mr. Thomas states that prosecutions based on photo radar evidence would violate the Confrontation Clauses of the United States and Arizona Constitutions because a defendant would have ‘no opportunity to question or cross-examine a camera.’ Mr. Thomas ignores, however, the fact that non-testimonial evidence such as a surveillance tape or an Intoxilyzer test result is routinely admitted in criminal cases without implicating the Confrontation Clause. Under Mr. Thomas’ interpretation of the Confrontation Clause, the evidentiary use of surveillance tapes or Intoxilyzer test results, as well as any other mechanical measuring device, would be improper because there is no opportunity to question or cross-examine the tape or the measuring device. Furthermore, the United States and Arizona Confrontation Clauses, by their express terms, only afford a criminal defendant the opportunity to confront the witnesses against him… A defendant’s right to confrontation does not extend to physical evidence”

Thomas Responds

(do we have a dyfunctional system going here in AZ or what?) From KTAR story dated Feb 27th:

“[Goddard’s] main goal seems to be avoiding being pinned down on controversial issues,” Thomas said. “Quite frankly, that’s one of the reasons why this amazes me. You never hear him weighing in on the controversial, tough issues that I take on”

Then he switches to… drum roll please… immigration enforcement!

“Since the first year I took office, he and DPS have refused to fully enforce the immigration laws of this state,”… “DPS has released one van load after another of illegal immigrants stopped on our highways.”

Pecos Death Trap?

UPDATE SEP 22,2010: AFN reports that that there was an injury wreck at 32nd and Pecos resulting from a “bad left”. The 17 y.o. EB driver turned left into the path of the WB driver, who was injured “seriously but not life threatening”. Bad lefts were the cause of both a 2003 fatality and a 2007 very serious injuries; both of those were at 40th and Pecos. Continue reading Pecos Death Trap?