12/17/2013Pennsylvania Lawmaker Lets Traffic Camera Companies Police Themselves
Bill introduced in Pennsylvania lets speed camera makers confirm validity of their own tickets.
Pennsylvania state Senator Michael J. Stack (D-Philadelphia) is a big fan of traffic camera companies. Last week he introduced legislation enabling any small town in the state to hire a for-profit firm to set up speed cameras on a freeway or heavily trafficked road in return for a cut of the revenue collected. The measure would also put the photo radar companies in charge of verifying that the tickets they issue are accurate.
Stack receives a significant amount of campaign funding from the insurance industry. Last year, Allstate, Erie Insurance, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, The Pennsylvania Insurance PAC and USAA each chipped in thousands to his re-election bid. Insurance firms support cameras because in states like Arizona and California, photo tickets carry license points that allow the companies to collect higher premiums from ticket recipients. Stack waited for a tragedy to strike before pushing the industry bill -- a fatal accident on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia in July.
"A family has been decimated because reckless hooligans thought they could play Speed Racer in Northeast Philly," Stack said in a statement. "It's outrageous and we need speed enforcement cameras to help us stop this senselessness."
State law already allows major cities to use red light cameras, as Philadelphia does on Roosevelt Boulevard. Stack's industry bill would expand the program to allow automated ticketing machines to photograph a vehicle and mail a citation to the registered owner if the device says the car was traveling 6 MPH over the speed limit. The private company that owns, operates and maintains the cameras will also be in charge of certifying that the speed estimate is valid.
"Automated speed enforcement systems shall undergo an annual calibration check to be performed by the manufacturer or vendor," Senate Bill Number 1211 states. "The annual calibration check shall be kept on file and shall be admissible as evidence in any court proceeding as prima facie evidence."
This particular law is a response to the situation in Maryland where the private vendor in several cities has been caught issuing inaccurate tickets. In Baltimore, at least 5.2 percent of ticket were based on bogus radar readings, according to the private vendor's admission (view report). Because Maryland law requires "independent" lab verification of each photo radar device, another speed camera firm's profit tanked after the company was forced to issue refunds in three cities for failing to certify accuracy. Stack's proposal eliminates this concern.
A copy of Senate Bill Number 1211 is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.