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SAFETY, LOCAL JURISDICTION ARE CHIEF PHOTOCOP ISSUES

SHARE SAFETY, LOCAL JURISDICTION ARE CHIEF PHOTOCOP ISSUES

Yet another bill to put a stop to photo radar is being considered by the Utah Legislature. This despite the defeat in this session of an earlier measure that would have limited use of the device to school zones and high-accident areas.

The latest legislation would require that all moving-traffic violations be observed by a police officer and that any citations be delivered in person. Since PhotoCop relies on a roadside device to photograph speeding cars and tickets are mailed to the car's owner, the bill would essentially kill its use.Similar bills were introduced in 1992 and 1993. The first passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Norm Bangerter, who said local communities should be left to decide the issue. In 1993 the measure failed for lack of lawmaker support.

A House committee killed a measure earlier in this session to limit use of photo radar, but the proposal to put a gun to the head of PhotoCop rises with eternal regularity. The ticketing system has its problems and could use some fine-tuning, but the fact remains that it reduces speeding in areas where it has been used.

Few dispute its efficiency or its cost-effectiveness. One officer operating the unit can catch more speeders than several officers on traffic patrol, thus freeing up police for other law enforcement duties.

What some people don't like is that photo radar is impersonal - you can't talk PhotoCop out of a ticket - and it issues tickets to the car's owner, who may or may not have been driving the speeding car when it was photographed.

A ticket issued by PhotoCop may be disputed by the recipient if he or she was not driving. Fighting a ticket is always a hassle, but the inconvenience caused to a few does not outweigh the benefits of making busy highways safer for all of us.

Those who drive other people's cars should be especially conscious of the law and abide by the speed limit. Owners who allow others to drive their vehicle should realize they may be held responsible for the other person's actions.

The chief argument for defeating the latest measure to regulate or outlaw PhotoCop is that local law enforcement agencies should be allowed to use whatever methods work best to enhance safety. This is one area where the state should defer to local government.

Taking preferences of local residents into account, police can decide whether to use the device to supplement officer patrols in high-accident areas and school zones, adopt more widespread use of it or eliminate it altogether.

Banning PhotoCop statewide or making it too time-consuming to be feasible would be too sweeping. It should be left to city councils to decide and to change their decisions later if the situation changes.