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Utah speeders who collectively breathed a sigh of relief last month when the Utah Legislature passed a bill limiting the use of PhotoCop to school zones undoubtedly are displeased with Gov. Norm Bangerter's veto of the legislation.

PhotoCop combines radar to clock speed and a camera to record the car license number and picture of the driver. A speeder is not stopped, but the citation comes later in the mail.Lawmakers who voted to limit PhotoCop to school zones, in effect paid tribute to its efficiency. School zones need the best protection available.

In vetoing the bill, the governor rightfully noted, however, that this is clearly an issue local governments are qualified to decide for themselves. While use of the PhotoCop technology obviously irritated many motorists, it was not an issue calling for state involvement.

Towns and counties have the responsibility of solving their own public safety problems. And traffic patterns, highway conditions and other transportation safety issues vary from city to city and from county to county.

What may work well in one area might not be as effective in another locale. This is readily evident in the different approaches used by cities and counties in their public safety programs.

Many of the arguments used by opponents regarding PhotoCop simply do not hold up under close scrutiny. Evidence is pouring in from the three Utah cities using PhotoCop that it is proving an effective law enforcement tool. Traffic accidents are down and drivers are conforming better to posted speed limits.

Add to that the declining number of motorist complaints and it would appear those police agencies using the system are eliminating the problem practices that spawned early complaints.

Consider also:

- PhotoCop can be an effective way for local governments to increase traffic enforcement without the costly addition of manpower and equipment.

- PhotoCop can be used to free a greater number of police officers to work on more serious matters such as criminal investigations, drug enforcement and crime prevention programs.

- PhotoCop can create safer conditions for pedestrians - especially children - and those motorists adhering to good driving practices.

- PhotoCop appears to be making drivers more alert and conscientious.

Arguments that PhotoCop is an element of "Big Brotherism" are also weak. The use of photo-radar is neither pervasive nor an invasion of privacy. It is simply a tool used on public roads to improve safety.

The governor made the proper decision in vetoing the PhotoCop bill and putting the issue back in the hands of local communities where officials in at least a half-dozen towns are looking at the possibility of adopting the system.