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Sep 30, 2013 9:56 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Speed cameras might soon stop flashing across Pima County

TUCSON- It's that flash of light no driver wants to see, but put the pedal to the metal and the Pima County speed cameras will catch you.

The county installed them five years ago, but in December its contract with Tempe-based American Traffic Solutions is up, which means the board of supervisors will have to decide whether or not the cameras stay or go.

"I actually hate them because I have received more than one ticket from them," Driver Janice Fischer says.

Now it looks like Fischer and other fed up drivers might get their way. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is recommending the county do away with the speed cameras.

While the crash rate over the county's eleven camera locations has decreased over the past five years, it's not by a substantial amount.

In addition, the number of citations issued has also decreased. According to the county, in 2009 there were 39,997 citations, in 2010 there were 37,360, in 2011 there were 28,473, in 2012 there were 25,434 and through April 2013 there were 7,585.

The decrease in citations could mean a couple of things: 1) drivers aren't speeding as much, or 2) drivers have become too familiar with the camera locations, so they slow down while passing the camera, then speed up later on.

"I mean we're all guilty of that to be honest," Driver Jackie Olson says.

Whatever the reason for less citations, that means less money for the county. While Huckelberry says the county didn't pay for the installation of the cameras, it does have to pay for court costs associated with drivers who contest their tickets. It also has to pay for administration costs associated with employees from the sheriff's department who go through the tickets.

In a couple of weeks Huckelberry will find out whether or not those costs are greater than the amount of money the county receives from the citations. Each citation usually costs about $239. The county only receives about 10% of that. "If in fact we make very little money off the program, which I think is probably true, then why should we be involved in the program at all because it's unpopular," Huckelberry says.

The board of supervisors will most likely take up the issue in mid-November.

If the county decides to continue operating the speed cameras, it would most likely modify them. Huckelberry says one option is to activate only three or four of the eleven cameras at one time, that way drivers wouldn't know which speed camera is actually on.

If the county decides not to renew the contract, Huckelberry says the cameras could be used for other operations. One possibility is automatic license plate readers, which help track stolen vehicles.

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