As South Carolina legislators attempt to sort out the Palmetto State's stance on speed cameras, legislators in many other states already have cemented their positions on the technology.
When Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, files a bill that would make legal the town of Ridgeland's use of traffic cameras along Interstate 95, the S.C. General Assembly will have competing bills regulating the use of speed cameras in South Carolina.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, introduced a bill last week to outlaw the cameras statewide and require Ridgeland to reimburse drivers who were ticketed. Grooms' bill also would require Ridgeland to pay a $500 fine to the state for each ticket issued by the system.
ITraffic president Bill Danzell, who brokered the company's deal with Ridgeland to install traffic cameras along its stretch of I-95, said recent controversy over speed cameras is hardly new.
"If you examine the growth of the automated enforcement industry in the U.S. market over the past 20 years, you will see plenty of controversy," Danzell said. "Whereas, in nearly all developed countries it is unthinkable for an officer to risk his life ... to deliver a piece of paper on the road, the U.S. has been slower to develop."
A LEGAL PATCHWORK
Nationwide, laws governing the use of automated traffic cameras vary, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia allow speed cameras. Conversely, states such as West Virginia, Maine and Wisconsin have outright bans on police officers using automated traffic cameras to enforce speeding laws.
"We do not have any type of automated enforcement in our state," said Natalie Harvey, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation. "We do not enforce any of the laws via cameras at intersections or speed cameras. All of our laws are enforced by policemen witnessing something happen."
Arkansas state law allows the cameras only in school zones and at railroad crossings.
Mississippi municipalities are prohibited from using speed cameras.
Illinois state law allows the Illinois State Police to use the technology only in construction zones or on roads owned by the state's Toll Authority, said Capt. Scott Compton, spokesman for the Illinois State Police.
Even where cameras are legal, they are not always deployed.
Arizona was the first state to begin using speed cameras in October 2008, when former Gov. Janet Napolitano struck a two-year deal with Redflex Traffic Systems to install fixed and mobile cameras along the state's highways, The New York Times reported.
Gov. Jan Brewer pulled the plug on the Arizona's 76 traffic cameras in July when she allowed the state's contract with Redflex to expire.Some conservatives had complained the cameras were deployed primarily to raise money, according to The New York Times.
National groups such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, AAA and the Governors Highway Safety Association support the use of speed cameras. However, they say the technology should not replace traditional enforcement or be used by states, counties or municipalities to generate revenue.
"We think they should be deployed where speed-related fatalities have occurred," said Johnathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. "Let the safety data dictate their placement. That said, we urge community to also consider them in school zones, construction zones and residential areas as these areas typically are supported by the public."