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Van cams - Poison was in planning
by Jacqueline Ganeku, staff writer

If you are an Oahu driver, you probably know about the unmarked camera vans designed to catch speeding vehicles. After much public criticism, the legislature finally decided, early in April, to put an end to the unpopular program, unanimously voting to repeal legislation that they had passed, unanimously, months ago. Instead of fixing the problem they created, our elected officials are now going to make us pay to shut it down. This is being done despite the fact that the idea was a good one – slow traffic down, decrease the number of traffic fatalities resulting from speeding, free police for more important duties.

The Department of Transportation was looking to reduce the number of traffic fatalities resulting from speeding. In the beginning of the program, the vans were out from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The so-called “racers” that they were trying to catch did not go out racing between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. They did their racing in the wee hours of the night or morning when the streets and roads were empty. That is when the vans should have been out in order to catch the real speeders.

Ticketing drivers for going a few miles over the speed limit did not make any sense at all to motorists. According to an article written by Chenoa Farnsworth, the only way the state would’ve been able to break even, dollar wise, with the traffic camera system, is if they issued tickets to drivers going six miles above the posted speed limit. Tickets issued to drivers going under that threshold would constitute a monetary loss for the state.

This is a very important issue because the Department of Transportation adamantly said they were going to have a “zero tolerance policy” when it came to catching speeding vehicles. What kind of message were they sending out to the motorists? It is not a positive one, because most of us know that going a few miles over the speed limit poses little or no threat to our fellow drivers. In any case, drivers going too slow pose a safety hazard. If a driver is going too slow it may cause other drivers to swerve in and out of traffic to pass them and this can cause traffic accidents.

Some said the state was trying to use the traffic camera system as a potential cash cow, but the example above would show otherwise. Instead of the Department of Transportation doing their math and realizing that it benefited no one (except maybe ACS) to issue tickets to drivers going six miles over the speed limit, they allowed it regardless. It showed the Department of Transportation, trying to put their foot down by having a “zero tolerance policy,” but instead it made them look like an incompetent department. They exhibited tremendous poor planning and lack of foresight.

In their lack of planning the Department of Transportation overlooked yet another important issue, high insurance premiums. Many states that have similar traffic camera systems have developed laws that curtail things such as high insurance premiums resulting from the traffic camera system. Here in Hawai‘i, there was no law developed to protect us from the traffic camera system. This meant that if a person got a ticket, he or she didn’t just have to pay the ticket, but also higher insurance premiums. According to the Web site of the City of Fairfax, Northern Virginia, who has a photo enforcement traffic system, they consider the traffic violation a civil violation.

Our representatives voted unanimously for this new traffic camera system, and now they have unanimously voted to repeal it, which will cost the state—us—millions of dollars to compensate Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS) for the cancelled contract. According to an article in the Honolulu Advertiser, ACS told state officials they will seek $5 million to $8 million to offset their startup costs under a termination clause in its contract. According to the same article, it said that if the above was paid, the money would have to come from a $5 million revolving fund the department set up for the program, which was supposed to be self-sustaining with ticket revenues once it was fully running. Additional money would have to be authorized by the legislature. Since many of the tickets issued were dismissed, how much of this revolving fund will pay for the $5 million to $8 million fee ACS is seeking?

The legislature created this program. They refused to take responsibility for fixing it. They should pay for it from their own pockets.


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