Beaufort News

Erickson submits bill to reinforce Ridgeland traffic cameras' legality

The town of Ridgeland's use of traffic cameras to enforce speeding laws would be declared legal under a bill introduced Tuesday in the S.C. House of Representatives.

The legislation, filed by Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, would allow speeding or other traffic tickets to be issued based on a combination of photographic and radar evidence.

Erickson said she opposed the cameras until she wentto see for herself how the system operates.

The town started its system in August on a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 95 within town limits, despite a state law passed in June -- which Erickson voted for --that legislators thought would make Ridgeland's system illegal.

"I was originally very skeptical of the system and wanted to see it for myself," Erickson said. "I did that, and I was very impressed with the training and the skill of the officer (operating the system.) One of the biggest reasons I filed this bill is that I'm concerned about the safety of our police officers. We put those folks out on a dangerous piece of highway. We need to embrace this technology where it is appropriate."

The bill, H3443, also would repeal the June law, which allows traffic cameras to be used only in emergencies and requires tickets "based solely on photographic evidence" to be issued in person within an hour of the alleged violation.

Erickson's bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton; Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island; Joseph Daning, R-Goose Creek; and Deborah Long, R-Indian Land, according to legislative records.

Herbkersman has said he had a similar change of heart about the cameras after going to see the system last year, and now thinks it is legal, catches speeders and protects officers.

The bill was referred Tuesday to the House Judiciary Committee.

Erickson's bill is the second filed this year with Ridgeland's cameras in mind.

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, introduced a bill Jan. 11 to prohibit the practice, reimburse ticketed drivers and require the town to pay a $500 fine to the state for each ticket issued by the system.

That bill, S336, will be debated today by the Senate Transportation Committee, of which Grooms is chairman, according to legislative records.

Grooms has vowed to defeat Erickson's bill, saying her measure has "zero chance."

Erickson said she hopes legislators at least have an opportunity to debate her bill.

"One senator can stop a bill," Erickson said. "I will do everything in my power to make sure this bill gets a hearing. It's worth having a debate over this issue."