DPS adjusts trigger to 11 m.p.h. over posted limit
By: Mike Leiby, The Independent

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DPS is adjusting the speed at which speeding vehicles on the state highway system trigger photo radar cameras.

Until now camera triggers have been set to take a photo of anyone exceeding the posted speed limit by 10 miles per-hour.
On Jan. 8, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool said he ordered all DPS photo radar cameras (including those on state highways in Phoenix) adjusted to trigger at 11 miles per-hour over the posted speed limit instead of 10 miles per-hour as they have been in the past.
Vanderpool said the reason for the change is to eliminate an inconsistency created by speed related state statutes and as a result of public input since DPS's expanded photo radar enforcement began on Sep. 26, 2008.
DPS Lt. James W. Warriner said the inconsistency had to to mostly with public input and an old law passed back in the 1970's that allowed issuance of citations for "waste of a finite fuel".
He added that since the posted speed limit all along the I-10 corridor in Phoenix was recently raised to 65 miles-per-hour, officials with DPS felt it was the fair thing to do to increase the trigger speed of photo radar cameras too so they would be consistent on all of Arizona's highways and because raising the speed limit to 65 miles-per-hour makes the old law concerning waste of a finite fuel obsolete.
Before the trigger speed change, photo cameras along highways with a 65 mile-per-hour speed limit were set to trigger at 10 miles over the posted speed limit and along highways with 55 mile-per-hour speed limits they triggered at 11 miles over, Warriner said. He said another reason for the change was in consideration of the fact that not all speedometers will register the exact same speed on any given roadway.
"We (officials with DPS) didn't feel it was completely fair to drivers whose speedometers might be off by a couple miles-per-hour and not know they are exceeding posted speed limits and raising the trigger speed to 11 miles over the posted speed limit helps compensate a little more for that fact," he said.
Warriner pointed out that increasing a vehicle's recommended tire size by only one size typically throws a speedometer off by seven to eight miles-per-hour.
He said that the primary reason for the switch was because of state highways down in the Valley, but the the affects would also be felt in the White Mountains.
"We don't have any fixed photo radar units up there (in the White Mountains,) but we do have two mobile technician SUV's that are on duty 16 hours a day," Warriner said.
He said the units are moved approximately every six to eight hours to various locations here in the high country and that even he doesn't really know where they are from day to day or deployment to deployment.
He warned that wherever the mobile photo radar cameras are deployed, getting caught speeding is not a pleasant or inexpensive situation. Civil traffic fines in Arizona are pre-set and mandatory, and after adding a 10 percent surcharge that goes directly to Arizona's Clean Elections Fund, $181.50 is the minimum fine for getting caught speeding on photo radar, Warriner said.
He said civil fines for speeding, whether caught on photo radar or by an actual patrol officer, are bad enough, but if a person drives too fast they could end up with a criminal speeding citation, and repercussions could be much worse.
In Arizona, anything over 20 miles over the posted speed limit is a criminal traffic violation and the fines for those kinds of tickets are not pre-set. "If a person gets a criminal speeding ticket, it is up to the court to set the fine," he said. He added that in almost all speeding cases, insurance companies are notified and chances are that the guilty driver would receive points against his or her drivers license and possibly even license restrictions or suspension.
He said the goal of DPS in adjusting the trigger speed of photo radar cameras is to encourage consistency and safety in peoples driving habits. "We want to encourage motorists to maintain posted speed limits to prevent fatal and serious injuries so people driving on roadways in Arizona will feel safe and have a fear-free driving experience that ends up with everyone getting safely to their destination," Warriner said.