Speed cameras draw protest, praise

AP PHOTO/ BRUCE SMITH
In this March 8, 2011 photo, a sign warns motorists on Interstate 95 in Ridgeland, S.C., about a speed camera system in use on the expressway in the town limits. The cameras in Ridgeland have spotted thousands of speeding motorists and won accolades from highway safety advocates. But they've also attracted opposition from state lawmakers and sparked a federal court challenge.
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RIDGELAND, S.C.--- As Interstate 95 sweeps past a small town along South Carolina's coastal plain, motorists encounter cameras that catch speeding cars, the only such devices on the open interstate for almost 2,000 miles from Canada to Miami.

Speed cameras watch traffic along Interstate 95 in the small town of Ridgeland, S.C. The cameras have drawn a federal suit from ticketed drivers and opposition from state lawmakers.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Speed cameras watch traffic along Interstate 95 in the small town of Ridgeland, S.C. The cameras have drawn a federal suit from ticketed drivers and opposition from state lawmakers.

The cameras have nabbed thousands of motorists, won accolades from highway safety advocates, attracted heated opposition from state lawmakers and sparked a federal court challenge.

Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges said the cameras in his town about 20 miles north of the Georgia line do what they are designed to do: slow people down, reduce accidents and, most importantly, save lives.

Lawmakers who want to unplug them argue that the system is just a money-maker and amounts to unconstitutional selective law enforcement.

"We're absolutely shutting it down," said state Sen. Larry Grooms, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Earlier this month, Ridgeland Police Officer David Swinehamer sat in a van beneath an overpass as a radar gun in a thicket of electronic equipment outside clocked passing vehicles: 60, 72, 73, 67.

Then a Mercedes with South Carolina tags sped by going 83 -- 13 mph over the speed limit. A camera fired, and pictures of the tag and driver appeared on a monitor in the van. The unaware motorist continued north but should expect a $133 ticket in the mail in a couple of weeks.

"I just don't think it's right," said James Gain of Kissimmee, Fla., one of the lawsuit plaintiffs who got a ticket last year while driving between his home and Greensboro, N.C. "If you get a ticket, you should be stopped by an officer, know you have been stopped and have an opportunity to state your case."

Gain paid the fine, saying it was less expensive than driving six hours to Ridgeland for court.

Motorists do get a warning. As they enter town, a blue and white sign says they are entering an area with "Photo-Radar Assisted Speed Enforcement."

Hodges said that since Ridgeland, working with iTraffic Safety, became the first community in South Carolina to deploy cameras in August, motorists are driving slower along the seven miles of I-95 passing through the town.

From January to July of 2010, there were 55 crashes and four fatalities. From August through the end of last month, there were 38 crashes and no deaths. Through last month, there has been almost a 50 percent drop in motorists driving 81 mph or more since the cameras were switched on.

"You can't argue with the results, and the only reason you would be upset is because you are speeding," said Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas. "All it's doing is enforcing the law, and even then you have to be doing over 80 to get a ticket."

POLICE USE DRIVER'S LICENSE photos or physical descriptions from licenses such as a driver's hair, eye color and weight to identify the motorist. No ticket is issued if there is any question about the driver's identity.

Grooms said that because not all speeders are ticketed, it's selective enforcement. He also noted that the system doesn't get violators off the road.

"You are driving down the road at 100 mph or you are driving down the road drunk. The camera takes your picture and three weeks later you get a ticket in the mail. There is no element of public safety," he said.

Grooms said the cameras are only a money-maker for the town. Hodges says the town just wants to recover the cost of police and ambulance service for millions of motorists passing through. Two-thirds of ticket money goes to the state, he said.

The town has about $20,000 invested in the van. The contractor, iTraffic Safety, pays other costs in return for a share of ticket revenue.

Though state law prohibits issuing tickets solely on photographic evidence, the mayor said that doesn't apply in Ridgeland because an officer is there to see the speeder from the van.

However, the state Senate, in a 40-0 vote, recently gave approval to changing that and banning speeding tickets from photographs whether the camera is attended or not. The law would also require tickets to be handed directly to a motorist.

The federal lawsuit contends it's unconstitutional to send motorists tickets by mail and to addresses outside town limits.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls speed cameras "a very effective countermeasure" to crashes but said they should supplement, not replace, officers patrolling. Ridgeland still uses officers on the interstate.

Comments (23) Add comment
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mickl
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mickl 03/27/11 - 07:29 pm
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If you speed you should be

If you speed you should be fined!

snuffygerkins
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snuffygerkins 03/27/11 - 08:26 pm
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Wondered for years why they

Wondered for years why they don't put speed limiters on vehicles.....Oh yeah, the gub'ment makes a TON of money off of issuing tickets. It's nothing about safety folks. It is purely revenue enhancement. I got hit in a speed trap in Estill SC a while back. I went to court TWICE to fight it and in the end paid them $135. I had the choice of paying TWICE that amount and having it not reported on my driving record. I looked the female judge straight in the eyes and told her I would take the points as I was INNOCENT of the charge. Even the local cop was ticked off having to re-write so many tickets as most of the people there paid the higher amount to avoid an increase in their auto insurance.

corgimom
32144
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corgimom 03/28/11 - 06:47 am
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"I just don't think it's

"I just don't think it's right," said James Gain of Kissimmee, Fla., one of the lawsuit plaintiffs who got a ticket last year while driving between his home and Greensboro, N.C. "If you get a ticket, you should be stopped by an officer, know you have been stopped and have an opportunity to state your case."

You have every opportunity to state your case in court.

If you don't want a speeding ticket, don't speed. It's as simple as that.

andnowfor
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andnowfor 03/28/11 - 08:44 am
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Oh come on snuffy, can you

Oh come on snuffy, can you imagine how ballistic people would be if the "gub'ment" started limiting the speed of our cars? The ridiculous part of this article is that you have to be going over 80 to get the ticket. So, its okay to brake the law; but if you break it by too much we will give you a ticket.

bdouglas
4972
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bdouglas 03/28/11 - 08:44 am
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So what this story is saying

So what this story is saying is that if you plan to drive on I-95 through Ridgeland, just do 78, wear a hat and shades and lie about your weight at the DMV. Easy enough, right?

I'm with corgimom on not speeding if you don't want a ticket. I'm sick of practically being blown off the road by some dope who wants to drive 85 so they can get home 2 minutes earlier as I try to be a law-abiding citizen and drive the speed limit.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:38 am
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You can't put a speed limiter

You can't put a speed limiter on a car. If you did everyone would do 10MPH. Think about it. The highest speed limit around here is 70. So if you limit a car to 70, you can speed through parking lots and school zones anyway. If a picture of me speeding is good enough, a picture of my money should be good enough too. I can hear it now. Sir that's only a picture of $150. Well you only had a picture of me speeding.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:39 am
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It was my twin that went

It was my twin that went missing last night.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:39 am
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Good thing I had just put my

Good thing I had just put my beer down.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:40 am
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Does this speeding picture

Does this speeding picture make me look fat?

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:41 am
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Will the Jail Report have

Will the Jail Report have access to the speed shots?

Riverman1
83470
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Riverman1 03/28/11 - 11:45 am
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Augusta Resident...LOL....By

Augusta Resident...LOL....By the way, there is a spray you can buy to put on your license tag that makes the cameras unable to read the plate number. It does not alter the appearance of the plate to the naked eye.

Augusta resident
1368
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Augusta resident 03/28/11 - 11:47 am
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On the other hand. judges,

On the other hand. judges, cops, cops wives, politicians, politicians wives ect ect...can't instantly get out of it! The camera can't get a wiff of alcohol or pot either. Can't get PC to search a truckload of weed with a month old picture. Replacing real Police with cameras will make that place a drug route and normal good ole speeding folks will pay for the smooth road they drive on.

Sweet son
10323
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Sweet son 03/28/11 - 12:04 pm
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My daughter got one in a

My daughter got one in a small town in Tennessee but we only got the "butt" of the joke; a picture of the license plate and not even the "cheeks" or tail lights as it should have been. She was actually going 15 over according to the very limited amount of info that we got. Called the Chief who was very friendly but he did not budge.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/28/11 - 12:37 pm
0
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Don't speed and you won't get

Don't speed and you won't get one. Next...

emergencyfan
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emergencyfan 03/28/11 - 02:43 pm
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While I agree that you

While I agree that you deserve a ticket if you're speeding, I do think you should actually receive the ticket at the time of the crime. If it is truly to slow drivers down as argued, getting the ticket weeks after the fact has done nothing to slow you down in the meantime. In addition, for people who have to travel long distances, there's a chance you could get multiple tickets on a single trip without knowing it. Whereas if you had been stopped for the first ticket, you probably would have continued your trip more slowly. Seriously, how many people watch their speedometer every second they drive? It would be easy to speed at several points during an 8 or 10-hour trip and not even realize it, especially on the interstate. And we all know driving through Atlanta at the posted speed is taking your life into your own hands.

Riverman, sorry, that spray has been proven to be absolutely useless.

emergencyfan
0
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emergencyfan 03/28/11 - 02:46 pm
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And don't you have the right,

And don't you have the right, when stopped, to ask to have the gun calibrated to prove it is working correctly at the time? How do you do that weeks later?

lieutenantkitten
14
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lieutenantkitten 03/28/11 - 03:08 pm
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emergencyfan, I agree, an

emergencyfan, I agree, an officer should be the one to pull you over. Also, sorry corgimom, but your statement of "You have every opportunity to state your case in court. If you don't want a speeding ticket, don't speed. It's as simple as that" is not what the article says or proves. Like andnowfor states, the gun / photo is for going over 80. That is a revenue getter, pure and simple. Speeders going over 10 mph are just as dangerous. And an officer who pulls over a car speeding for emergency reasons can assist, where as a camera does nothing.
Also, as for the people who are upset about the "speeders" who "want to drive 85 so they can get home 2 minutes earlier," there is a law for that, so becareful you are not a left-lane bandit, and they won't run you over. That is one of the leading causes for accidents involving speeders, the people who don't just "pass" in the left lane but drive in it only going over 5mph, causing the flow of traffic to slow and worse, stop.

Suzy Q
1
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Suzy Q 03/28/11 - 03:33 pm
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While I don't object to

While I don't object to cameras being used for traffic purposes, I think that someone going fast enough to get a ticket on the Interstate should be STOPPED by LEO and physically given the ticket. Not being stopped going like a bat outta.... may only encourage them to go a little faster.

These fools need to be pulled over for the protection of everyone else.

Suzy Q
1
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Suzy Q 03/28/11 - 03:35 pm
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Here's an excellent idea sent

Here's an excellent idea sent to me in email.... hehehehehehe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2xnWYx8YK8

Riverman1
83470
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Riverman1 03/28/11 - 06:23 pm
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Emergencyfan, I read many

Emergencyfan, I read many reviews and at least one product, Photoblocker, does work. It is also legal.

corgimom
32144
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corgimom 03/28/11 - 07:10 pm
0
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"Whereas if you had been

"Whereas if you had been stopped for the first ticket, you probably would have continued your trip more slowly."

If a driver can't figure out what the big warning signs mean, and still continue to speed, they earned that ticket, fair and square.

How about people shouldn't speed because it's dangerous and sooner or later they will get in an accident?

corgimom
32144
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corgimom 03/28/11 - 07:13 pm
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"And an officer who pulls

"And an officer who pulls over a car speeding for emergency reasons can assist, where as a camera does nothing."

Neither does speeding when there's no officer around, either.

Ask a police officer how many accidents are caused by someone speeding for "emergency reasons". Everybody has "emergency reasons".

You can have just as bad of an accident when you are speeding for "emergency reasons" as you do for "non-emergency reasons".

Riverman1
83470
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Riverman1 03/28/11 - 07:25 pm
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Actually, there's no reason

Actually, there's no reason for any vehicle, including emergency ones, to speed, but that's another discussion.

scoopdedoop64
2366
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scoopdedoop64 03/28/11 - 11:22 pm
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Come on lets be real and quit

Come on lets be real and quit lieing about it. This has nothing to do with slowing down speeders and saving lives. It all goes back to the money. This is a way to gain quick money for the state. It's wrong any way you look at it. I think that the government goes too far in telling us what we "must" do all under pretention that they "care". Just like the seat belt laws. Now should children be strapped in "yes". But adults should have the freedom to make their own choices as long as it affects only them and I am not buying the bit about what if they don't have health insurance...that argument don't fly. If so then why not require people to wear rubber soled shoes when they enter a public place because they might slip and not have health insurance. Remember, when you see these cameras and new laws that it all goes back to the money and we haven't even mentioned what kickback lawmakers might get from the camera company. Sorry guys I just had to vent for a moment. I am all better now. LOL

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