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2/7/2013 9:43:00 AM
Photo radar legislation revs up again
Photo radar cameras greet drivers in the westbound lanes of Highway 69 approaching Prescott Valley.
File photo courtesy Daily Courier
Photo radar cameras greet drivers in the westbound lanes of Highway 69 approaching Prescott Valley.
File photo courtesy Daily Courier
Prescott Valley Tribune

A Valley lawmaker has introduced legislation that appears to seek a compromise between supporters and detractors of photo radar enforcement on state highways.

Prescott Valley is one of a handful of Arizona communities still employing the controversial traffic control systems, and HB 2477, introduced by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), could affect the portion of the town's program that operates on Highway 69.

Rather than advocate an elimination of photo radar, as multiple bills have done in the past, Lesko's proposal asks that communities employing the devices be required to statistically justify their use.

Reporting criteria would include the average number of vehicles per day on a photo-patrolled section of highway, the percentage of vehicles that are ticketed, the number of accidents and the design of the system.

Prescott Valley Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said that is easily done, especially with regard to safety.

"It has benefited the Town of Prescott Valley somewhere in the vicinity of a 30 percent reduction in injury accidents," Tarkowski said, adding that opponents of photo radar can easily avoid receiving an expensive ticket by not going faster than 10 mph over the posted speed limits which, he said, "are scientifically set by engineering studies."

In fiscal year 2011-12, photo radar was responsible for issuing about 27,700 speeding tickets and 3,200 citations for red-light violations.

But, according to Prescott Valley Police Lieutenant Wayne Nelson, only about half of those citations result in a collected fine.

Tarkowski maintains that the program is "revenue-neutral."

That is a far cry, he said, from former Gov. Janet Napolitano's intentions for the now-defunct statewide system, which was to raise millions for the state general fund. That goal, he said, gave photo radar its initial "black eye."

The state receives about half of the fines the town collects from photo radar tickets and Redflex, the company that operates the system, takes about 70 percent of the remainder.

"Some years it has cost us a little and some years our revenues exceed the cost," Tarkowski said.

Even if the measure was to gain approval in the Legislature, communities such as Prescott Valley that already are using photo enforcement would not immediately be required to submit to its reporting conditions. The proposed law comes into play only when a community seeks to start a new photo enforcement operation or when its contract for existing photo radar comes up for renewal.

In addition, the law would have no effect on Prescott Valley's use of photo radar on local streets.

Tarkowski deferred speculation on whether the town would carry on the program.

"That," he said, "is a decision that will be made by elected officials."

Prescott-area representatives Karen Fann and Andy Tobin did not return calls by press time asking for their views on the proposed legislation.

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