No one likes having their picture taken from one of the 11 speed cameras on Pima County roads. But the cameras are doing their job - improving safety and saving lives.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said Friday during a budget hearing that the unpopular cameras have served their purpose of forcing drivers to slow down on their daily commutes.
The Star reported Saturday that the number of citations is down more than 30 percent. There were 48,956 issued in tickets in 2010 and 33,878 last year. Even better news - there were no deadly accidents due to excessive speed last year.
"This is a significant, positive trend," Huckelberry said in memo last year, the Star's Joe Ferguson reported.
With speeding incidents and deadly accidents declining, we were surprised that Huckelberry wants to yank the cameras when the county's contract expires in December. Huckelberry plans to recommend that the Board of Supervisors not renew the contract with Tempe-based American Traffic Solutions.
Huh? The cameras are working, saving lives, so it's time to take them out? There's a logic lapse.
Huckelberry said that the number of tickets declined as drivers have learned to slow down in the busy traffic corridors near the cameras.
However, if the cameras are removed we are concerned drivers will slip into their fast-driving ways. Keeping the cameras would reinforce the slow-down lessons learned.
In addition, with Pima County's population churn - folks moving in and out - there is a pool of drivers who haven't learned to take their feet off of the accelerator.
The purpose of the cameras should remain safety - not making money. Huckelberry said the cameras never generated big bucks for the county's general fund.
State surcharges and the camera company's cut are deducted from the hefty fines attached to a speeding ticket. Therefore, the county gets only a small portion of the driver's fine, usually 10 or 20 percent. One county analysis suggests that the county could get as little as $17 per citation, the Star reported.
Revenue should not be part of the discussion or decision - statistics indicate that the speed cameras are saving lives. That's the bottom line.
Despite their unpopularity and little revenue for the county, let's keep smiling at the cameras (hopefully they won't be snapping too many photos) and remember their value is measured in safety.
Arizona Daily Star