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Old 2008-06-27
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Exclamation Arizona Drops Speed Camera Points

Article: Arizona Drops Speed Camera Points

Arizona capitolIn a severe blow to the insurance industry, the cash-strapped Arizona state legislature yesterday approved an expansive speed camera program designed to boost state revenue by dropping license points and eliminating costly legal challenges. Governor Janet Napolitano (D) first announced the proposal in January, expecting it to generate $165 million in revenue from new $165 "civil" tickets mailed to vehicle owners.

The plan was adopted as part of a much larger $9.9 billion budget package that passed 16-10 in the state Senate and 31-29 in the House. Lawmakers had been desperate to find new ways to cover a $2 billion deficit. The approved budget authorizes the Department of Public Safety to hand a private company up to $20,361,300 to set up and operate speed cameras on freeways throughout the state. The first $3 million of net profit generated will go to police agencies to buy tasers, $4 million will go to the courts and the remainder will be deposited in the general fund for spending by lawmakers.

Until now, Arizona had been one of a handful of states, including California, Colorado and Illinois, to issue points against the driver's license of the owner of a car accused by a machine of speeding. Although motorists may prefer not having points on their license, the change to a civil citation is designed to reduce costs and court challenges. Instead of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, the state will only need to show that it was "likely" that a vehicle was speeding. The owner of the car would then be liable, regardless of whether he was actually driving.

Operational costs are also reduced as extra cameras will no longer be needed to capture a driver's face. Under civil rules, a snapshot of a license plate will suffice. That means the state will no longer lose tickets because, for example, sun glare obscured the driver's face. Last year, a photo enforcement vendor recommended dropping points to boost the odds of photo ticketing's statewide political survival.

On the other side of the issue, insurance companies, including the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have spent millions promoting the use of photo ticketing technology with the hope that all such programs would eventually issue points. Outside the United States, nearly every country that uses speed cameras issues points, generating billions in revenue from annual premium surcharges. Insurance lobbyists were disappointed by yesterday's vote. More
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