House panel OKs ban on photo red light and speed enforcement

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Another bill to ban photo enforcement cameras is at the state Legislature. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Another bill to ban photo enforcement cameras is at the state Legislature. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Opponents of photo speed and red light enforcement in Arizona aren't taking no for an answer as they try to ban the devices in cities statewide.

The proposal is championed in the state House again this year by Republican Rep. Travis Grantham of Gilbert.

"Again, we're here talking about the unconstitutional, unsafe in many instances, and rife with fraud industry that has become photo radar," he told the House Judiciary Committee. "There's still constitutional issues with photo radar, there's [sic] issues with due process, there's issues with affording people the right to confront their accuser."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona politics]

Grantham also said he believes the devices cause accidents because drivers react unexpectedly when radar devices are triggered. The fraud he referred to was the 2015 guilty plea of the former CEO of Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. in a kickback scheme.

There have been multiple attempts to ban photo radar and red light cameras in recent years in the Legislature but they mainly failed. The Legislature did ban them on state highways in 2016, leading to the removal of cameras in Star Valley and on U.S. 60 in El Mirage. Voters in Tucson banned photo radar by a wide margin in 2015 and other cities have also stopped using it in recent years amid a public outcry.

[READ MORE: El Mirage sees increase in speeders, blames photo enforcement ban (June 20, 2016)]

Still, many cities in the Phoenix area use the devices, including Paradise Valley.

That city's police chief, Peter Wingert, testified that traffic accidents were cut nearly in half when the city started enforcement in 1987. The city's red light and speed enforcement devices are mainly used along the two busy streets, Tatum Boulevard and Lincoln Drive, that bisect the city.

"We are a residential community and do have a lot of driveways that enter onto Lincoln and Tatum," Wingert said. "Our citizens have asked for more photo enforcement, not less."

[READ MORE: More photo radar cameras sprouting up in Paradise Valley (April 29, 2015)]

The photo enforcement issue typically splits majority Republicans, with those backing cities' efforts to cut down on speeding sparring with others who view the devices as either a Constitutional violation or simply unfair to drivers.

Committee chair Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, a Gilbert Republican, said he's firmly in the camp of those opposed to the cameras who believe they trigger accidents. He said he once regularly drove in Star Valley and saw the problem firsthand.

"Invariably somebody always blew past me, and the light went off and they would hit their brakes and swerve into the next lane," Farnsworth said. "And the only thing that saved me is that I knew it was going to happen."

Grantham's proposal now goes to the full House after a routine constitutional review.

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