Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Smile! You're on Photo Radar!

Last week, I was moseying my way down I-17 after work. Traffic on I-17 at 4:45 p.m. usually fluctuates wildly; at one moment, you'll be going 55-60 miles per hour, and the next, you'll be stopped. This day, it was flowing about as smooth as poo out of a goose.

I was cruising right along at 65 mph when a yellow sign popped out at me: "Photo Enforcement: 300 Feet." I looked at my spedometer and lucky me! I was going 66 miles per hour. Since the speed limit on most freeways is 65 mph, I figured I was in the clear. I passed the camera. Bright flash.


Disbelief. My heart began to race. All the cars around me were going just as fast as I was. It couldn't have been me. COULDN'T HAVE. I searched frantically for a speed limit sign, but none were to be found. The next one I saw was about a mile away. It said "SPEED LIMIT: 65 MPH." Phew. I continued to rock out to Rihanna and forgot about the whole thing.

Fast forward to today. Dillon comes home from work and hands me a lovely envelope. Oh...no.

That's right. A photo radar ticket. I'd been flashed.

It was the exact location I had remembered before -- I-17 southbound, milepost 195. 4:54 p.m. My approximate speed -- 65 mph, just as I had recalled.

Posted speed: 55 mph.


And there below it all was my face, concentrating on the road. And next to it, my license plate.

The cost of this violation: $181.50.

At first, I was furious. I wanted to shred the thing and never look back. Then, I wanted to invest in a baseball bat and inflict my wrath upon those unsuspecting Satan machines. Then, I wanted to cry. I went through an array of emotions. But one thing I knew: if an officer had been there instead of a camera, I would probably not have been pulled over.

I do not doubt I was going 11 over the speed limit. However, I wasn't alone. The cars around me were going at least 9 or 10 mph over the limit. Plus, I wasn't aware of the speed limit on that section of the freeway. I honestly believed it was 65, since that's the speed limit on 90% of the freeways here. And since that was the first number I saw after the "flash". I do believe I fell victim to a speed trap.

But my real gripe lies with the cameras.

Everyone I know (with the exception of one person who shall remain nameless) HATES the photo radar cameras. And now, I know why.

When you get a ticket from a photo enforcement device (as opposed to a ticket given by an officer), you do not get a chance to plead your case. The ticket states you must pay the fine or contest your responsibility in a court of law. You cannot dismiss the ticket by going to traffic school. You must respond by paying the full sanction and the surcharge, contest responsibility, or indicate you are not the driver in the picture. Otherwise, they file a complaint against you. That means more money, which is exactly what they want.

Basically, what this means is, you are GUILTY until you prove your innocence. Sounds backwards, huh? That's because you learned differently in 7th grade American History class. Photo radar tickets directly contradict the Constitution, which states everyone is "innocent until proven guilty". Yeah, I can go to court and defend myself. But guess what? If they don't believe me (which is most likely), I still have to pay the ticket, an additional $25-30 fine, and the violation goes on my permanent driving record. What ever happened to "due process" and a fair trial?

Speed cameras do not curb roadway dangers. If the states wants to stop speeding, they have to get to the root of the problem, no? Turn the patrol lights on, pull over the speeding vehicles. That's how you make the roadways safer -- by removing the dangerous drivers.

Speed cameras are simply a money-making measure. If you fork over the cash, the ticket will go away. And many people do. Where does your money go? To the great state of Arizona . . . and to PhotoNotice, the company that manufactures and operates the cameras. Yep.

The photo radar issue is one of the hottest in this state. Everyone is talking about them. I always thought they were annoying at red lights before, but they are truly a distraction on the freeway. When people see the warning signs, their gut reaction is to put on the brakes. This interrupts the natural flow of traffic and, in my experience, causes panic and confusion. I am having a hard time seeing how this is any safer than speeding.

The moral of the story: start investing in baseball bats, residents of Arizona. It's the only reasonable solution to this problem...

...or just hope and pray photo radar will end up on a ballot sometime so we can remove them from the roads for good.



  1. So I'm going to play devil's advocate here just a little... is it only bad to speed if you get caught, or are you supposed to obey the law? Is it ok to speed as long as everyone else is too, or should you obey the law? While the "going with the flow of traffic" notion is great and all, it's not actually a law, and it shouldn't count for an excuse to speed if you're thinking in legal terms.

    In theory, the photo radar assumes you're innocent until it sees you being guilty, and then it takes a picture of you being guilty. Thus you've already been proven guilty, because it wouldn't take your picture if you weren't breaking the law. And while they don't catch everyone, they do catch more than a police officer, and are slightly more objective than a human in that they don't listen for excuses, and they have a set speed (or higher) that they take photos for.

    And, since Cory is taking a Driver's Ed minor for when he's a teacher, I do know that more accidents are caused by speeding than just about anything else - even cars that slow down because of signs. And speeding is more dangerous because the higher speeds of the car increase lots of risks in lots of different areas (stop time, impact, control risks, etc.)

    Now, in your situation I would be peeved too because I HATE the random 55 zones in the AZ freeways. I mean, really?! WHO DOES THAT?! I'm sorry you got a ticket, and it is unfair that only one out of hundreds of speeding cars at a given time gets a ticket. Lame-o kablame-o.

  2. Oh dear! I would be livid! One thing about being in Idaho that I LOVE is no cameras anywhere on the streets. I can freely run red lights and only have to look for police men not police AND radar.

  3. I'm sorry Jenna that you had to go through this! There is a woman who has been on radio shows about NOT paying that ticket and why it would be okay. I don't remember her name, but I remember her speaking on a talk radio show 92.3 and they posted her recording on their site. Maybe check it out? Otherwise, here is a link that may be helpful to you.


    Good luck! I really don't believe that they are doing what they were originally intended for. So, this is what they get...drivers not paying their tickets. I mean, they figure that there will be more people...why spend the time going after those that won't.

  4. Sad day! That is a lot to pay for a ticket

  5. We were vacationing in Arizona and got a stupid ticket for "running a red light" we watched the video online and it looked like we were clearly over the line before it switched to red... Regardless, an officer watching with his naked eye I'm sure wouldn't have given us the ticket. We never want to go back to that blasted state again! haha

  6. i know your post is a few months old but i wanted to leave a comment from the other side of the story. you said that the ticket was from mile post 195? well that is at 12th st on the 17 and of course by the time you saw another speed limit sign it said 65 thats because you were on the 10 at that point after transitioning from the 17 truck route. The 17 from dunlap all the way to the 10 where it ends is 55. It has been the same for several years, way before photo radar. I do agree with you that it should be pretty much the same everywhere, but that is just how it is. Another comment is that you will not get any points on your driving record unless you have a commercial drivers license. And with these tickets, you do have the option to go to driving school if you are eligible. another point to keep in mind, if you were to be pulled over by a police officer, the ticket would be close to double that of a photo radar one. i am sure after getting that ticket you are much more careful when driving that portion of the freeway.


I like feedback almost as much as I like food.