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Arizona County Dumps Speed Cameras As Ineffective
Photo radar fails to reduce accidents in Pima County, Arizona so board of supervisors cancel program.

Pima County courthouse
Speed cameras did nothing to improve safety on the roads of Pima County, Arizona so county supervisors decided earlier this month to cut ties with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the for profit company in charge of the program. The automated ticketing contract expired on January 6.

"Studies show that drivers become familiar with the fixed sites and decelerate as they near the camera, only to accelerate once clear of the site," County Administrator C.H. Huckelberry wrote in a memo to the board of supervisors. "The crash rate throughout the entire Pima County road system declined 19 percent since 2008. Isolating just the eleven camera sites, however, indicates the three-year crash rate across the camera locations decreased only 13 percent, which is lower than expected."

At some sites, accidents increased, and at others they decreased, suggesting the photo ticketing had no effect on safety. The county analysis found accident severity also stayed the same. Collision rates may not be the only factor motivating supervisors. From the beginning, the county has had problems with ATS and the tiered per-ticket compensation arrangement that was part of the contract.

"When the program went 'live,' an initial controversy existed when the vendor (ATS) billed for the entirety of the 'initial' tier of citation essentially creating a 'minimum' threshold amount for which the county was responsible regardless of the quantity of citations actually paid," Pima County Sheriff's Captain Karl Woolridge explained in a memo.

The county eventually escaped the mandatory minimum charge, but officials were not pleased with the attempt to extract more money from the contract. ATS offered to install several other photo ticketing options to keep the program alive. Red light cameras were rejected as predatory devices.

"The city of Tucson was embroiled in controversy regarding red light enforcement to include the length of yellow phases at city intersections and the actual boundaries of the intersection which were often far beyond the painted crosswalks and stop bars on roadways which contributed to driver confusion," Captain Woolridge explained.

Officials also noted the unpopularity of automated ticketing machines has resulted in camera removal in Pinal County and rejection of the statewide freeway camera program. Despite initial claims that continuously recording the license plates of all passing vehicles would help locate stolen cars, the sheriff's department found the feature of "limited usefulness" with the speed cameras. Official rejected the offer to install dedicated automated license plate reader (ALPR or ANPR) cameras.

The ATS cameras generated 15,498 tickets worth $3.7 million last year.

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