Two more Tucson intersections are now graced with the overseeing eye of photo enforcement red light cameras – that means two Tucson intersections will now be more nightmarish.

Two new traffic cameras go live this week/Thinkstock image

The intersection of East Grant and North Swan roads is lucky recipient of one of the cameras, while the other camera perches prettily at East Speedway Boulevard and North Kolb Road.

Both cameras were expected to go live at 6 a.m. Monday, according to a news release from the Tucson Police Department. Motorists get a break the first week, the release notes, with only warnings being issued. After that, you’re on your own.

The nightmare does not necessarily come from receiving tickets from these automated traffic enforcers. The nightmare comes from the additional hazards they pose because of the way motorists react to the cameras.

When they see a traffic camera, a goodly number of drivers are immediately struck by deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

Rather than driving along as they normally would, obeying the speed limit or only exceeding it by 9 mph which still won’t merit a ticket, some motorists suddenly slam on their brakes and move at crawl slower than that of an injured animal.

Perhaps we should call it wounded deer syndrome, rather than deer-in-the-headlights.

To witness this phenomenon firsthand, take a drive down East River Road, where a camera stabs its roving eye on both eastbound and westbound lanes near Country Club Road.

That stretch of River Road’s speed limit of 40 is a touch too slow to begin with for such a wide, smooth expanse. Put the speed camera on the sidelines and some drivers suddenly slam to crawl of as low as 28 mph.

While the City of Tucson website says excessive speed is a factor in 20 percent of traffic fatalities, it does not note how many crashes come from folks driving at the pace of wounded deer.

Stopping is not often the problem - MOVING is/Ryn Gargulinski

Red light running, the violation noted by the intersection cameras, is another hazard that can easily lead to death.

Yet also distressing, and even more common, are drivers who continue to sit idle when the light turns green. Others will only start to move, begrudgingly and at that painful, wounded pace, when the piled-up lane of drivers behind them start honking or yelling words that start with the letter F.

If the photo enforcement cameras are meant to help Tucson traffic, rather than serve to hinder it and produce a bunch of paranoid motorists, they need to widen their scope.

No, photo enforcement cameras should not have the power to bust people for any violation on the books, just those on the opposite end of the spectrum from speeding and red light running.

Instead of only snapping away at cars going too fast, cameras should capture and punish those going below the minimum speed limit.

Rather than only photographing vehicles that barrel through red lights, they should also nab folks who sit idle at green ones, thereby hindering the flow of traffic.

Getting rid of the cameras is not option the City would go for. Too much money, time and effort has been invested. But making them work to better traffic may be.

Two laws photo enforcement cameras should include in their scope:

ARS 28-704. Minimum speed limits; requirement to turn off roadway

A. A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when either of the following applies:

1. Reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

2. The reasonable flow of traffic exceeds the maximum safe operating speed of the lawfully operated implement of husbandry.

B. If the director or local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the director or local authority may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which a person shall not drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

C. If a person is driving a vehicle at a speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe, and if five or more vehicles are formed in a line behind the vehicle, the person shall turn the vehicle off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the director or a local authority, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed.

ARS 28-873. Stopping, standing or parking prohibitions; exceptions; definition (excerpt)

A. Except if necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or if in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or traffic control device, a person shall not stop, stand or park a vehicle in any of the following places:

1. On a sidewalk.

2. In front of a public or private driveway…

3. Within an intersection….


What do you think?

Have you been busted by a photo enforcement camera?

Have you seen drivers react to the cameras in strange ways?

Should photo enforcement cameras check for other violations beyond red lights and speeding?