Arizona leads revolt against speed cameras
Published 13/01/2010 | 05:00
AN ATTEMPT to introduce Irish-style speed cameras on the other side of the Atlantic has ended in a public revolt, with motorists binning speeding tickets worth a total of $90m (€70m). The scheme in Arizona is now on the verge of bankruptcy and might be scrapped.
Its demise would mark an ignoble end to the first statewide effort to bring speed-camera enforcement to the US, where many, including judges and elected officials, regard the devices as an unconstitutional method of collecting tax.
"I see all the cameras in Arizona completely coming down," said Shawn Dow, who is leading the public revolt via his chairmanship of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar.
He added: "The citizens of Arizona took away the cash cow of Arizona by refusing to pay."
Mr Dow is now trying to gain support for a ballot measure that would ban the cameras in November's elections.
Although some 700,000 tickets have been issued since Arizona's 76-camera plan was rolled out last year, a mere $37m of the $127m in fines and surcharges has actually been collected. Arizonans have realised that they can simply ignore tickets sent to them in the post and the authorities cannot prove that they ever received them.
Unless the tickets are served in person -- something Arizona cannot afford to do -- they automatically become void after three months.
Motorists have also demonstrated their opposition to the machines in other ways, such as placing large cardboard boxes over them, decorating them with sticky notes, attacking them with pickaxes and, in one noteworthy case, setting off the cameras while standing in front wearing a monkey mask.
The company hired to install Arizona's cameras, Redflex, is under financial pressure, having invested $16m in the equipment. Nevertheless, it says it intends to persevere and "is in this for the long haul".
While Americans have largely tolerated cameras that catch motorists running red lights, the introduction of speed cameras has been met by the kind of public fury usually reserved for overpaid Wall Street bankers.
It is thought that about 300 communities in the US have experimented with the devices but Arizona was the first state to commit to the technology under the then governorship of Janet Napolitano, who is now President Obama's secretary of homeland security.
The new governor, Jan Brewer, who is a Republican, is openly critical and agrees that the scheme was introduced more to raise money than to prevent accidents.
As in Ireland, however, there are many officials in Arizona who argue that the critics protest too much. Supporters of the cameras argue that they are not there just to raise money for the government, but also to improve safety, thereby saving lives.
Last week, for instance, a 25-year-old man was snapped as he tore through a 65mph zone at 78mph -- while standing on the driver's seat, with his head poking through the sunroof. He has since been arrested.
- 25pc don't check to see if their lights are working.
- One in four drivers admit they are not fully awake when they get behind the wheel and that it takes them at least four minutes of driving time for them to wake up properly.