Arizona to remove its highway speed cameras

A state that has recently become a symbol of excessive surveillance decides to remove all of the speed cameras on its highways. One potential reason: people weren't paying their tickets.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

They tell me you're never alone in Arizona. Somebody, somewhere, is always there to keep an eye on you, just in case you might be the sort of person who might do, or simple be, something undesirable.

So those of an equitable state, which may even include some from within the state of Arizona, might find their breakfast muffin slipping down more slowly when I reveal that Arizona has this week made a huge stand against excessive surveillance.

Has the state decided that, after all, it might not be wise to stop every car containing Lopez look-alikes (that's George, Mario, Jennifer, or Lisa Left-Eye)? Not quite. Instead, Arizona has decided to remove all of the speed cameras along its highways. According to an Associated Press report Thursday, the 36 fixed cameras and 40 in vans will be deactivated July 16.

The cameras that some argue infringed on constitutional rights. CC Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

I know that many of you have strong feelings about speed cameras and their efficacy. It seems that many an unscrupulous civil servant has attempted to milk alleged speeders in as many technological ways as possible. Some have reportedly even shortened yellow lights in order to increase the bounties earned from unsuspecting drivers.

However, it seems that revenues from Arizona's speed cameras were rather lower than were perhaps expected, when they were instituted by Janet Napolitano, now Homeland Security secretary. While the cameras triggered tickets to be sent to anyone going 11 mph or more over the speed limit, the illegal indigents had their own method of replying: they didn't.

It seems that so many tickets remained unpaid (only a reported 30 percent were ever paid) that initial estimates of $90 million in revenue weren't exactly realistic.

And then there were the people who, according to the Arizona Republic, decided that Post-it notes, Silly String, and even pickaxes were the finest way to deal with such an invasion of their private car time, which may have included attempts to flee the state.

Arizona's use of speed cameras, supplied by Australian manufacturer Redflex Holdings (PDF), was reportedly the most widespread in the United States. Some believe they improved road safety, but I know that many will sympathize with the words of Shaun Dow, a leading supporter of a November ballot initiative to ban the use of photographic enforcement anywhere in the state.

Dow told the Arizona Republic: "We're happy that DPS (Department of Public Safety) will no longer be violating Arizona citizens' constitutional rights." You see, they're very big on constitutional rights in Arizona.