Photo Radar Dumped by the State of Arizona

In mid-July of this year the use of photo radar on Arizona State freeways was abandoned.  Governor Jan Brewer made the decision not to renew the contract with Reflex, an Australian company.

Since photo radar was introduced on Arizona freeways in 2008 it has faced intense opposition.  The opposition centered on privacy issues and the feeling that photo radar was not a safety initiative but rather a revenue source for the State.

When photo radar was introduced in Arizona the plan was to use 100 cameras and the projected revenue was in the area of $165 million.  Ultimately 36 fixed and 42 mobile cameras were put into operation.  Since 2008 a total of 1.2 million tickets have been  issued.  The tickets issued represented revenue of over $200 million – had they all been paid, that is.

The problem is that only 432,367 of the 1.2 million tickets issued were ever paid (about a third).  The state collected only 78 million dollars in revenue – far short of the projected 120 to 165 million.

Why were the tickets not paid?  Because the majority of Arizona residents chose to simply ignore them.

In democratic societies laws are passed by elected officials.  Laws that do not have public support are unenforceable.  The state relies on voluntary adherence to the law, it simply does not have the resources to enforce laws that the majority of the public does not support.

In the case of Arizona this created a conundrum.  Normally when a citizen is charged with an offence and fails to attend court to deal with the matter, a warrant to apprehend is issued.  If the State had continued with photo enforcement, it would have been in a position where they would have had to issue warrants for the arrest for approximately 800,000 of its citizens.  This would have been unpalatable politically, and in a practical sense, no state has the police and court resources to deal with such an influx of cases.

Groups lobbying against the use of photo radar were not successful in getting the issue placed on the ballot for fall elections.  They are, however, not giving up their fight.  Although the State of Arizona no longer uses photo radar local jurisdictions such as Tempe, Mesa, and Phoenix still do.  Organizers vow to put the photo radar question on the ballot in those cities.  Their plan is to get rid of photo radar, one city at a time.

In Winnipeg in 2008 the Winnipeg Police Service issued a total of 192,202 traffic tickets.  Of those, 167,569 were issued as a result of images captured by photo radar.  The biggest increase in 2008 was tickets issued by mobile photo radar units which rose to 118,692 – an increase of 59% over 2007.

The 2009 figures will be contained in the 2009 Winnipeg Police Annual Report which is usually issued midyear.  As of this date, the report has not yet been released.

Hopefully it will be available prior to the upcoming civic election.