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Speeders, beware! Photo radar on U.S. 89 in east Layton moved one step closer to reality Thursday night when the City Council granted approval for the police chief to contact photo radar companies and negotiate a contract.

The City Council would still have to approve the contract and actual use of photo radar, but Doyle Talbot, police chief, told the council in a work meeting he's convinced the controversial technology is the only way to slow down the estimated 10 percent of drivers on the highway who travel 65 mph or faster."It can slow traffic down," Talbot said about photo radar. "If someone can show me a better way to handle things on 89, I'll use it," he said, stressing that if it can save one life, photo radar would be worth it.

Talbot said excessive speed is the No. 1 cause of accidents and, although he's been using all the manpower he can spare to try and better enforce the speed limit on U.S. 89, the effort has been largely unsuccessful and has been a source of concern and frustration for police. He said the traffic signals installed on U.S. 89 haven't help slow traffic down either.

"I realize I'm stepping into the lion's den on this," Talbot said, as he told the council the device would also likely open up the city to more criticism.

Talbot expects photo radar to be "revenue neutral" for the city. No council members have yet expressed definite opinions on the use of the technology in Layton, but council members received a tour and demonstration of a photo radar van last year.

Councilman Jerry Stevenson suspects the city will be better off leasing rather than buying a photo radar system because technologies are upgraded so quickly - should the council approve a photo radar contract.

The City Council would likely not vote on a photo radar contract until May at the earliest because there will be only one regular council meeting in April.

If the council approves photo radar, signs would be posted along U.S. 89 warning motorists of its use. The council could also direct the police to mark the photo radar vans.

Talbot said photo radar will be issuing tickets whether vans are marked or not. He said radar detection equipment can also warn motorists of the device.

He said he's been aware of photo radar for five years, but once he learned West Valley City was going to use the system, he stepped back and observed it as a model. Talbot said West Valley City has convincing statistics to prove photo radar slows motorists and reduces accidents.

The City Council has already expressed concern over the additional workload, mainly in court, that photo radar could create for the city. However, Layton's new attorney, Gary Crane, previously worked for West Valley City and has handled photo radar cases in the past.

Talbot said many years ago when radar guns first came out, most citizens expressed the same kinds of concern then that they have today about photo radar. He said back then "radar patrolled" signs went up everywhere, but today none can be found along Layton's highways because people are comfortable with the technology.