Goodbye Photo Radar, Hello No Texting?

On Feb. 5, 2015, two bills passed through the Senate panel and moved onto the next legislature. Arizona is considering stopping all photo radar as well as banning texting while driving.

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Photo courtesy of Hipolito Corella

Photo radar cameras, like this one in Tucson, Arizona, cold soon be a thing of the past, as could texting and driving.

Jake Matise, Columnist

Photo radar cameras. People on their phones while driving. Most people have seen both of these things at least once. But in Arizona, the cameras and texting drivers could be gone very soon. Supporters of the movement to remove photo radar cameras say that they violate your constitutional rights, while texting and driving is obviously just plain dangerous. But if the bills go through, will our streets be safer?

Many states have already made texting and driving illegal because distracted drivers can cause fatal accidents simply by taking their eyes off the road for a few seconds. However, a recent tragedy in Arizona has revived the movement to ban texting and driving, which has been active for years. In May 2013, Department of Public Safety officer Timothy Huffman was killed when a tanker truck collided with his patrol car. The police report showed that the driver of the truck was checking Facebook and not paying attention, failing to notice that the road was closed. The Huffman family has since been leading the push to pass this law.

I could not agree more with making texting while driving illegal. This terrible wreck could have easily been prevented if the driver simply didn’t pull out his phone. This is also not the only case of a fatality due to something like this either. According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely.

Also, although photo radar cameras are supposed to prevent accidents, studies show that they can do the opposite. In a debate featured on Channel 3 News on Feb. 8, Shawn Dow, a supporter of the bill and chairman of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, presented startling evidence. After cameras were installed at 75th Avenue and Thunderbird Road in Peoria, the amount of crashes increased by 480 percent. At two other intersections, crashes increased by 100 and 120 percent. Frank Hinds, one of those against the bill, stated that crashes increased because of people trying to avoid getting a ticket and hitting the brakes, causing a rear-end collision, which according to Hinds, is safer than a “T-bone”  collision. However, T-bone collisions are up as well, and so are fatalities. Photo radar cameras have also been ruled unconstitutional by courts in Florida and Missouri, because of the reportedly intrusive license plate and facial scanning that the cameras do on every driver that passes by.

Personally, I feel that whether or not photo radar is unconstitutional is open to interpretation until it is deemed to be so in a court of law. However, the straight up facts that the amount of accidents has gone up significantly since the installment of the cameras cannot be argued with. Regardless of if it is driver error or not, these cameras have some correlation with the rise in crashes. As for texting while driving being outlawed, it should be a no-brainer for state officials. It is a growing national problem that has been recognized by 39 of the 50 states, and I believe that Arizona should follow suit.