Arizona Photo Enforcement Saving Lives, State Troopers Say

The blanket of speed cameras on Arizona's freeways and highways has saved three lives a month, according to state estimates.

The Department of Public Safety, which runs the state's photo enforcement program, says

statistics show a major drop in property damage, injuries and deaths in the Valley corresponding to the program's roughly three months of operation.

No question about it: Photo enforcement has a Big Brother feel that breeds disrespect and even acts of vandalism.

But the safety angle cannot be ignored. Vehicles on the freeway have been driving slower in and around the speed camera zones -- as any local motorist could tell you -- and that has apparently been affecting the rate and intensity of collisions.

The cause-and-effect is startling and tangible: More speed cameras equals fewer broken or amputated limbs, head injuries and deaths of collision victims.

DPS noticed the effect during the heavy use of photo enforcement on highways just before Thanksgiving. Last year about that time, DPS investigated seven fatalities throughout the state, says Bart Graves, one of the agency's spokesman.

In the same period this year, DPS investigated just one fatal collision, he says.

Stats like these bolster the supporters of photo enforcement -- only the most callous of photo enforcement critics could see such numbers as bad news. -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.