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Mobile radar signs could be in Tempe’s future

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Traffic concerns and speed signs were addressed at the Committee of the Whole in Tempe on Feb. 24 after a citizen brought up the issue to Tempe’s vice mayor.

Vice Mayor Onnie Shekerjian raised issues residents have with speed signs around Tempe. Some residents are concerned cars are racing down streets and risking the safety of those around them. A proposal would require the city to place mobile electronic speed signs to alert commuters of their speeds.

When asked what the difference is between stationary and mobile signs, Shekerjian said it provides a flexible way for cities to address speed concerns without having to implement a permanent sign.

In 2011, the city of Tempe voted to end the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems and the speed cameras. Tempe spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said the 4-3 vote against meant the city would not renew the two-year contract. Ripley said there was no mention of bringing photo-radar back to Tempe.

Speed cameras were installed around the state of Arizona in 2008, and according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, mobile and stationary cameras were placed throughout the Valley. There were 42 mobile cameras placed throughout the state, while 36 stationary cameras were positioned only on Phoenix freeways.

Residents argued the use of speed cameras was a scam by the city to bring in more revenue. In November 2010, Tempe and Redflex had a dispute about the revenue that the speed cameras made and how to distribute them. Redflex wanted a portion of the fees that were made in cases where commuters were given the option to attend traffic school instead of paying the fines. Tempe argued the city’s contract made no mention of sharing those fees with Redflex.

Andrew Ching, the city attorney during this dispute, said the long-standing argument was ended, and the contract was terminated soon after the disagreement.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety posted statistics on the effectiveness — or lack thereof — during the time in which Tempe used the speed cameras. In less than two years, the cameras were activated 2,758,700 times with 1,105,935 Notice of Violations/Citations sent to speeders. According to their information, the average fine was $181.50.

However, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said only 39 percent of the violations were paid. The city’s revenue did not reach its full potential with only $432,367 of the $1.1 million fines being paid. According to the Arizona State Legislature, if a person receives a notice in the mail, “the person does not have to respond to the notice.”

Implementing a system of mobile speed signals means the signs will not become part of the background and drivers become more aware of their speed. Although it is not guaranteed that drivers will respect the sign, the city is attempting to make the streets safer.

Shekerjian said speed bumps are out of the question for Tempe, but combining police enforcement with the radar signs will increase the likelihood that drivers are more cautious about their speeds. She said costs are still being determined.

Councilman Kolby Granville said there is research proving radar signs are effective.

“There is also a reasonable amount of research that says if you tell people the same time, the same way, all the time of their speed, they just don’t care anymore,” she said. “So the conclusion then is you, of course, move them around.”

The council hopes making the signs movable will make commuters more aware of their surroundings.

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