Arizona speed cameras incite a mini revolt

Nicole Santa Cruz
The Los Angeles Times
February 19, 2010

Reporting from Phoenix – Arizonans drive long distances on their highways, and they like to do it fast.

But since the Grand Canyon State began enforcing speed limits with roadside cameras, motorists are raging against the machines: They have blocked out the lenses with Post-it notes or Silly String. During the Christmas holidays, they covered the cameras with boxes, complete with wrapping paper.

One dissenting citizen went after a camera with a pick ax.

Arizona is the only state to implement “photo enforcement,” as it’s known, on major highways and is one of 12 states and 52 communities, plus the District of Columbia, with speed cameras, according to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The cameras, paired with radar devices, photograph vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph or more. A notice of violation — carrying a fine of $181.50 — is then sent to the address of the vehicle’s registered owner.

In California, speed cameras are illegal, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a program to add speed enforcement capabilities to 500 red-light cameras to generate $338 million for the 2010-11 budget. The proposal is unlikely to be a part of the Legislature’s upcoming budget recommendations.

State Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) has described the proposal as “silly.”

“It’s using big-brother tactics to balance the state budget,” she said. “It’s outlandish.”

That’s certainly been the reaction in Arizona, where the cameras have incited a mini revolt.

Initially, the cameras were thought of as a revenue generator, expected to bring in more than $90 million in the first fiscal year of operation.

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