House kills photo radar bill
BY TREVOR HUGHES • TrevorHughes@coloradoan.com • April 4, 2009
Lawmakers killed a bill that would have given Fort Collins and other cities significantly expanded powers to deploy photo radar.
Fort Collins police asked Sen. Bob Bacon to carry the bill, SB143, giving them the legal right to deploy photo radar on almost every street in the city.
House members killed the proposal on a voice vote Thursday. The bill had won approval in the Senate. The House vote means the proposal is likely dead for the session.
The bill would have permitted police to deploy photo radar on roads with speeds up to 50 mph, instead of being restricted to 35 mph or near schools or parks. The change would have meant police could have used it on almost every road in Fort Collins.
The technology is widely used in other countries, and Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver are three of the main users of photo radar in Colorado. When Fort Collins first began using the technology in 1996, there were few restricted areas under state law, but that was changed in 2004, according to traffic Sgt. Mike Trombley.
He said SB143 would have been a step back to the limited enforcement restrictions initially endorsed by lawmakers.
Fort Collins police say they consider the photo radar, operated by contractor Redflex, another tool to help ensure drivers are obeying speed limits. Under the proposal, unmarked vans and SUVs carrying photo radar could have been deployed on any city street with a speed limit of 50 mph or less if police or the public thought there was a speeding problem in the area.
City police said one place they would have deployed photo radar under the new law is Kechter Road near Fossil Ridge High School and on Shields Street south of Harmony Road.
Traffic unit Sgt. Mike Trombley said enforcement on streets with higher speed limits will just have to continue to be done by patrol officers.
"I'm a little bit disappointed, because photo radar is a tool in the tool box we use because we can't be everywhere we want to be," Trombley said. "We just can't address some of the complaint areas we want to."
Today, the photo-radar tickets come with a $40 fine, rather than the points that accompany a speeding ticket issued by a police officer. The maximum fine would have risen to $75 under the proposed law.
City police say they have seen compliance with 30-mph zones rise from 28 percent in 2002, to about 52 percent over the past several months. Police say the photo radar is partly responsible because its presence helps remind drivers to obey the law.
Under the current law, tickets are mailed to the vehicle's registered owner and don't count for points on a driver's record unless the vehicle was traveling 25 mph or more over the posted limit.