Arizona to shut off highway speed cameras

May 06, 2010
By Nicole Santa Cruz

Arizona’s controversial — and widely despised — highway speed cameras are coming down.

The state’s Department of Public Safety sent a letter to the cameras’ operating company this week, stating that its 2-year contract would not be renewed. The agreement ends July 15, and the cameras will be turned off the next day.

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

Motorists and lawmakers protested that the cameras were impractical in a state where people are accustomed to driving long, lonely stretches of road at high speeds. Citizens covered camera lenses with Silly String or Post-it sticky notes. Pressure had been mounting in the Legislature to end the program, and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer had denounced it.

A spokeswoman for Redflex, which has camera contracts in more than 240 U.S. cities, said the company was “undoubtedly disappointed” in the decision. The matter isn’t related to the company’s performance or services, spokeswoman Shoba Vaitheeswaran wrote in an e-mail.

Lt. Jeff King, who oversees the program, said that the decision was a policy matter within the Department of Public Safety, but that he could not comment further.

Shawn Dow, chairman of a group supporting a November ballot initiative to ban photo enforcement statewide, said the decision wasn’t surprising. “We’ve seen this coming,” Dow said. “We were just waiting for the formal letter to be sent.”

John Keegan, a judge for the Arrowhead Justice Court, had called the cameras unconstitutional and dismissed more than 8,500 photo-enforcement tickets.

Keegan said Thursday that the program was never done correctly. The decision, he said, will relieve a “tremendous logjam” in the court system of motorists appealing their citations.

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