Arizona Capitol

Arizona Lawmakers Shoot Down Ban on Photo Radar

An outright ban on photo-radar cameras in Arizona was shot down this week by lawmakers.

Senate Bill 1167, the latest of several attempts by some lawmakers to severely restrict or eliminate the photo-radar systems, failed on a preliminary vote in the Senate, with 13 in favor of the ban, and 15 opposed.

"Red light cameras are dangerous, [and] they increase accidents in intersections," pleaded Republican Senator Kelli Ward, the sponsor of the ban. "Speed cameras are unconstitutional, as are red light cameras."

See also: -Brewer Signs Bill Designed to Fight Photo Radar, Which Hardly Fights Photo Radar

Ward insinuated that some Democrats were voting against the ban due to an allegiance to the companies behind these cameras, but some Republicans joined the Dems in voting it down.

Democratic Senator Lupe Contreras, whose sister died in a car accident, said if it's possible that the cameras saved just one life, then it's worth it.

But Republican Senator Steve Smith said the statistics show little relationship between the cameras and accidents.

"There's no run of accidents since the cameras came down in Pinal County," Smith said, adding that the same has been true in other states that have removed cameras.

And although the state receives a portion of the fines from all photo-radar tickets from local police departments, legislative staff didn't anticipate that such a ban would impact the state's general fund, that is, if the photo radar tickets were replaced by human police writing tickets.

Ward tried to sell the ban as a privacy issue, saying that the cameras look inside cars, and also record and store videos of your car and its contents, all of which takes place without an actual police officer being involved.

"We are allowing non-sworn officers, we are allowing cameras and employees of camera companies, issue tickets," she said.

Two years ago, lawmakers did pass a bill intended to clamp down on the use of photo radar, but it was week. Then-Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill that only allowed cities to put photo-radar systems on state highways if the city "proves that the photo enforcement system is necessary for the public safety of the state."

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, 11 highway cameras still exist despite this law, plus, the law doesn't affect the use of cameras on city streets.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley