South Carolina House Votes to Ban Photo-Radar
The South Carolina House of Representatives voted Thursday to make the state’s ban on photo radar explicit. In 2006, the office of the attorney general issued an opinion stating automated ticketing conflicted with state law, but Ridgeland officials decided to ignore the ruling and operate a speed camera van on Interstate 95. The town of 2500 wants to deploy cameras to ticket out-of-state drivers as they pass through the seven-mile stretch within the town’s limits.
“We don’t need anyone’s approval to enforce the law in Ridgeland,” Mayor Gary W Hodges wrote in response to a local newspaper article. “The Gazette/Packet even pointed out that there is a ‘very high probability on I-95’ that some drivers who get tickets will be from out of state. Ya think? Believe it or not, we already knew this!”
Hodges entered into a five-year contract with iTraffic, a private company that offered to set up the system and do all the work in return for a cut of the profit generated. Bill Danzell set up iTraffic after his previous photo enforcement venture, Nestor Traffic Systems, went bankrupt. In neighboring Beaufort County, the local sheriff sought four years ago to obtain approval for a speed camera system, but was shot down by the state’s top law enforcement official (view opinion).
“It appears that there would be a conflict between the proposed ordinance and the state law prohibiting speeding in that there would be no criminal violation tracked or points assessed against the driver but, instead, there would be a civil penalty imposed,” the attorney general’s office ruled. “As to your question of whether it would be legal for a law enforcement agency to send citations to a registered owner by certified mail, no state law authorizes the use of such process.”
Lawmakers angered by Ridgeland’s defiance unanimously adopted an amendment offered by state Representative J Todd Rutherford (D-Richland County) that explicitly bans use of photo enforcement.
“Only when an emergency is declared which triggers the provisions of this section may speed or traffic cameras be used,” House Bill 1298 states. “A person who receives a ticket pursuant to a violation of traffic laws captured on speed or traffic cameras must be served in person with notice of the violation. Revenue collected pursuant to a violation of this section must be deposited in the general fund.” The underlying bill contains a provision allowing golf carts to be driven on secondary roads near one’s home during emergencies declared by the governor or president. The provisions regarding service and sending all revenue to the state are designed to remove the financial incentive of localities to set up such a program, even in the event of an emergency.