Study group supports ban on traffic cameras

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 26, 2012 

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A state commission assigned to study the use of traffic cameras to catch speeders has recommended that a recent ban on the cameras remain in place.

The S.C. Traffic Enforcement Commission filed its nine-page report Jan. 13 after examining the legal, ethical and policy issues associated with the cameras, like those that Ridgeland police used on Interstate 95 until a law enacted last year forced them to stop.

The report found no need to alter the law passed in response to Ridgeland's cameras. The law bans the use of cameras to enforce speeding laws and issue tickets based upon photographic evidence.

The 13-member commission was tasked with answering more than 20 questions related to the use of traffic cameras. It was supposed to have submitted the report by Nov. 1, but did not hold its first meeting until after the deadline had passed, according to state records.

Glenn McCall, who was eventually appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as the committee's chairman, said the group later met several times and determined there were serious public policy and legal issues associated with use of the cameras, including the provision in state law prohibiting the mailing of citations to alleged violators.

"We felt like the best thing the state can do is stick with the bill that was passed last year," McCall said. "That law will definitely suffice."

The committee also recommended that only the S.C. Department of Public Safety ever be allowed to use traffic cameras. It said the state does not have enough judges and magistrates to handle the increased number of citations that would result from a statewide use of traffic cameras.

"Already backlogged courts would become even more burdened due to the high volume of automatically generated speed camera citations," the report said. "Local governments may have to spend additional tax dollars to expand traffic court systems, and the state may have similar needs at the circuit level due to appeals."

The panel comprised several state lawmakers, S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal and representatives from the S.C. Sheriff's Association and other law enforcement groups. The group also included designees from the S.C. Bar and Criminal Defense Lawyers associations.

It was created by an amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, to a bill to outlaw the technology.

Ridgeland became the first town in South Carolina to use traffic cameras when it deployed them in August 2010 to ticket speeders on I-95. The town pulled the plug on the controversial cameras after the bill's passage last summer.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

Related content

  1. Traffic camera commission chairman says belated group will meet soon, Nov. 2, 2011
  2. Traffic camera commission never meets, fails to report findings, Nov. 1, 2011
  3. New state commission to begin studying speed-camera use, July 4, 2011

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