5/11/2012Arizona Governor Sides with Traffic Camera Companies
Arizona governor defies federal law in order to stand up for the photo enforcement industry.
Governor Jan Brewer (R) on Wednesday vetoed a measure that would have brought Arizona's definition of an intersection into compliance with federal law. In her veto message, Brewer said it would be too dangerous to adopt the same legal standard implemented across forty-eight other states.
"The law enforcement community has been very clear that widening intersections will increase the possibility of collisions," Brewer wrote. "Unfortunately, these concerns for public safety were not addressed. Changes to this definition merit significant discussion and appropriate stakeholder input."
The federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requires intersections to begin at a stop line or crosswalk, but Arizona currently defines an intersection as beginning at an imaginary line drawn the end of one curb to the other. State Senator Frank Antenori (R-Vail) introduced the legislation that would have brought the state back into compliance after noticing the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had chastised the Grand Canyon State's practice.
"Some states are using the extension of the curb line to mark the boundary for red-light running regardless of whether there are stop lines or crosswalk," FHWA noted in a presentation on red light cameras. "This practice is not consistent with the meaning of the red signal in the MUTCD."
Brewer's veto message suggested there was not enough time to take input from "stakeholders," but a last-minute compromise to Antenori's bill postponed the legislation's effective date until January 1, 2014. Moreover, the bill would not have required any work or effort on the part of local traffic engineers or other municipal officials. The only difference the bill would have made was reducing the number of red light camera citations.
Under Arizona law, drivers may enter an intersection on a yellow light. By moving back the what constitutes the start of the intersection by 24 to 38 feet, vehicles have more breathing room to clear an intersection without getting a ticket. The bill has the same effect as extending the duration of a yellow light by 0.2 to 0.6 seconds, depending on the width of the intersection and the speed of traffic. The vast majority of straight-through red light camera tickets are issued in those first few tenths of a second.
The prospect of losing hundreds of thousands in revenue upset the top two players in the red light camera industry, American Traffic Solutions and Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia which both have offices in the Phoenix area. It also upset the city of Phoenix, which dispatched Walter Olsen, the officer in charge of the photo ticketing program, to complain about the proposal to lawmakers.
Brewer also has significant connections with the photo enforcement industry. In 2008, she put Jay Heiler in charge of hiring personnel to fill administration jobs during the transition. At the time, Heiler was a lobbyist for Redflex.
In 2009, FHWA specifically chastised the city of Tuscon for painting confusing and illegal intersection marking lines in an effort to generate red light camera violations.