The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Pay My Speeding Ticket? No Thanks!

Posted by demkid on January 8, 2010

I found this story amusing, particularly because I had a close call with one of these devices while I was in Phoenix last March for spring training.  I was entering the freeway on an onramp, following another car at a reasonable speed, and all of a sudden I saw a couple flashes from a camera stationed in the median.  I was sure I’d get a hefty ticket in the mail, but fortunately, nothing arrived.  While I was anxiously waiting, I did a bit of research on the Arizona speed cameras, which had been introduced in September 2008.  I learned that out-of-state drivers were fairly safe, because the tickets become invalid if violators who ignore them aren’t personally served within three months.  It didn’t seem like Arizona process servers would have the resources to travel to other states to serve speeding tickets.  I wonder how many other states have similar laws requiring personal service?  In any case, it seems like these speed cameras may become a thing of the past, because the state is having a difficult time collecting money, even from in-state residents! 

Profits are far below expectations, a citizen effort to ban the cameras is gaining steam, the governor has said she does not like the program, and more and more drivers are ignoring the tickets they get in the mail after hearing from fellow speeders that there are often no consequences to doing so.

The cameras led to more than 700,000 tickets to drivers going 11 miles per hour or more over the speed limit from September 2008 to September 2009, the most recent data available, according to the Department of Public Safety. The mandated fines and surcharges on all those tickets would total more than $127 million, but they had generated just $36.8 million through September, Lieutenant King said.

Some of the people who got those tickets are contesting them in court and could end up having to pay the fine, but many of them have gone unpaid because drivers know they have a good shot at getting away with ignoring them. When people get tickets, they can pay without question, request a court date and fight the ticket, or simply ignore the ticket because law enforcement cannot prove they received it. The ticket becomes invalid if a violator who ignores it is not served in person within three months. It is nearly impossible to say how many people have ignored their tickets because courts do not track the figure.

Whatever the figure, overtaxed process servers cannot get to most of those people, and many of the citations go unpaid. That is part of the reason the speed cameras have not made as much money as expected.

Hmm.  Seems like Arizona should change their law to not require personal service for these types of offenses, but I’m sure this is more difficult to accomplish than it seems.  It’s just nice to know that when I’m back in the state this March, all I’ll have to worry about is the AHP, and not these tacky-looking cameras.

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