The Independent reached out to Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace to get her perspective on the current state of affairs regarding photo radar devices and how she views the usage of the technology.
Rep. Travis Grantham introduced HB 2208, which is a formal measure to prohibit the use of photo radar in Arizona — and since it’s introduction the proposed legislation passed the Arizona House of Representatives Thursday, Feb. 8 by a 31 to 27 vote.
This is what she has to say on both photo radar practices and the prospect of a prohibition on photo radar becoming a reality.
•What do you make of this annual attempt at the Arizona Legislature to ban the usage of photo radar on municipal streets?
Legislators get frustrated with speed traps, of which Paradise Valley has none. Further, Legislators have heard stories where municipal courts are too close to police and allegations that courts affirm matters that possibly should be dismissed. Scottsdale continues to be a target of these alleged behaviors, and there was much frustration in the past over Scottsdale allowing process servers to serve tickets by leaving them on a door without actual service and causing lots of issues and extra expenses for individuals, including suspension of licenses.
I was a victim of this tactic and understand the frustration when the justice system fails the public. I am a big proponent of fairness and justice so applaud efforts to make sure our justice system is fair for everyone. Legislators also want to ensure a fair process if tickets are issued or contested.
The problem is that the Legislature should not throw out the baby with the bath water, but instead should refine the process for those cities who use photo radar process effectively and appropriately for safety reasons.
Legislators instead of prohibiting photo radar can implement rules to ensure fairness and Paradise Valley is a model of how to use photo radar correctly. We place signs much further ahead of the actual photo radar device to try and get people to slow down. Our Town’s notices are provided far in excess of current state law requirements to ensure fair notice and to help people learn speed limits and avoid tickets. Our Town would prefer to issue no tickets.
Our Town’s use of smart boards to warn drivers of speed has been extremely effective to teach people to slow down. In areas where smart boards are used, citations drop 50 to 60%.
•What is your interpretation of Paradise Valley’s usage of photo radar?
Paradise Valley uses photo radar for several reasons. First, to change behavior and help drivers understand our speed limits. We have no speed traps. Our Town is virtually all residences and resorts. The problem is that virtually every road in the entire Town is a residential driveway. Safety is the utmost priority for our residences who have to get onto our roads from their driveways each day.
Second, our Town is unique because we have rural roads with no shoulders. No shoulders means no place to make safe traffic stops for the police or drivers. Main arterials have no shoulders. We do not want to have accidents, fatalities or slow downs by regularly blocking one line out of the only two lanes available on Lincoln or Tatum, for example. It would be constant traffic stops and congestion.
Further, Arizona law is the motorists are to “Move Over” over one lane when first responders and police are stopping or working with a vehicle in a traffic lane. There is no lane to move over to since we have no shoulders on roads in Paradise Valley.
Third, Paradise Valley has no property tax so using technology to save money is important to our residents. Using the technology of photo radars saves time, money, ensures pass through traffic can get through, reduces congestion, and means we do not need to hire more police officers. And we have taken steps to use technology fairly. Businesses use technology to save time and money so why shouldn’t municipalities also do so.
Fourth, our residents are not the ones receiving the tickets, it is primarily the pass through traffic between Scottsdale and Phoenix. It is drivers trying to get through our Town as quickly as possible and that is where the behavior modification is most important to keep speeds lower, noise quieter, and roads and people safer since we are a Town of residential roads.
Fifth, our Town gives plenty of notice so people can avoid speeding tickets if they are being attentive. If they are texting or not paying attention or just don’t care, those are the folks getting tickets. It is entirely preventable in our Town and our police department has designed the system so people do not get tickets if they just pay attention and drive safely and within ten miles of the speed limit.
•As many critics decry, do you find credence in that idea photo radar is solely a money-making enterprise for municipalities here in Arizona?
In Paradise Valley, photo radar is not designed to make money for the Town. A consequence of drivers ignoring all the signage and smart boards and choosing to speed and run red lights does result in approximately one million a year in revenue to cover expenses. But revenue generation is not the goal and the Town police prefer that no revenues are received if everyone would just drive safely, avoid running red lights, and drive within ten miles of the speed limits. That is primary goal: behavior modification.
Other cities and towns may have different goals, which may cause some concerns to Legislators and the public. Again, if this is the concern, the Legislators can manage this by adopting rules about the use of photo radar with signage and smart boards. It is not the best approach to paint all municipalities with the same brush. One solution does not fit all circumstances and local municipalities are trying to solve safety problems and know their local communities best so the Legislature should work with those communities to adopt rules for use of photo radar to improve transparency if that is the concern.
Our Town has 100 percent volunteer judges so tickets are not being affirmed by judges for their own benefit. They receive nothing for their service. We are the only municipality in the State with a 100 percent volunteer court. The monetary savings is immensely helpful to our Town with no property tax.
•As many proponents contend, do you think the usage of photo radar helps keeps streets safer by teaching a behavior modification to motorists?
Photo radar has definitely made our residential streets safer and changed behavior. Statistics bear that out so people do learn to drive safer. And, no one wants to live with having caused an accident or fatality so the warning signs and smart boards have been effective.
•What do you think the future is for photo radar in the Town of Paradise Valley?
Photo radar is currently at risk in the Legislature. We hope that elected officials at the State level will take the time to learn about our Town and its differences and adopt some of the best practices that PV has seen be effective and keep photo radar as a tool for law enforcement. It is a tool that should not be over used, used for money generation, or used to trick people with speed traps. We do not do any of those in PV. If the Legislature bans photo radar, my guess is people will be killed or hurt, accidents and congestion will increase and the Legislature would realize they should not have totally banned it and then would be in situation to bring it back with restrictions. The Legislature can do those restrictions and enhancements today and should keep photo radar as an option for local communities to use as appropriate for the safety of their residents.
Editor’s note: Ms. Pace is a member of Paradise Valley Town Council