Photo Radar Leaves Scottsdale, Expands to Phoenix

Nov 19, 2008

If there's one thing that residents and visitors can agree on, it's that Phoenix is full of bad drivers. In fact, Phoenix has become infamous for its regular appearance on "Top 10" lists for things like red-light runners and stolen vehicles according to Speeding is also a huge problem that city and state officials have begun to take very seriously.

Scottsdale, Arizona was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt a high-tech solution in an attempt to put the brakes on speeders. In 2006, Scottsdale installed a controversial photo radar system on the Loop 101 Freeway.

Sensors embedded in the pavement trigger a roadside camera when drivers exceed the posted speed limit by a certain amount. A photo of the vehicle and a speeding ticket are then mailed to the vehicle owner, with the average fine costing approximately $181 dollars.

A total of six cameras were installed, and were used for 9 months in 2006 and again for several months in 2007. The program was deemed a success, and Governor Janet Napolitano requested that the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) take over the program. They did just that, and in 2007 those sneaky white cameras began popping up on other valley freeways.

On a recent drive through Scottsdale, I noticed the original group of speed cameras has been removed! Only the sensors in the road remained; the roadside camera installations had vanished. While DPS has plans to add 60 permanent and 40 mobile photo radar cameras over the next few years, there are at least nine new ones on valley freeways like Interstate 10, State Route 51, and the Loop 101 Agua Fria Freeway. The mobile units are full size vans which are simply parked by the side of the road, and have a camera and various sensors attached to them.

My advice to drivers is to keep a sharp eye for the yellow "Photo Enforcement Zone" signs. In my experience driving on the freeways, the photo radar seems to work a bit TOO well. Several times I have had to quickly slow down from the posted speed limit to 45 mph or slower because the traffic ahead of me gets frightened when they see the speed cameras. This kind of overreaction can result in people getting rear-ended or worse!

Whether you love them or hate them, one thing is certain: we have not seen the last of the photo radar cameras!

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