City considers speeding cameras to slow lead-footed drivers down

Published 9:15 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

Speed cameras — and accompanying fines for lead-footed drivers — could be coming to Selma.

The Selma City Council heard a proposal Thursday from a company that would install cameras that operate similarly to red light cameras already in use.

Rick Willing, director of sales and account management for Redflex, addressed the council about how his company could address speeding in Selma.

During a 14-hour traffic survey in Selma, Redflex found 2,200 violations where drivers were clocked going more than 20 miles per hour over posted speed limits.

There were an additional 500 instances of drivers going more than 30 mph over posted speed limits during the same time frame.

Traffic was observed along Broad Street, Dallas Avenue, Citizens Parkway, Medical Center Parkway and other streets throughout the city.

“You have a remarkable speeding problem in your city,” Willing said.

Redflex offers three systems used to combat speeding — a fixed camera on a pole that would operate like the city’s red light cameras, an unmanned mobile unit that works from inside a vehicle and a hand-held camera that officers can use in the field.

How much drivers will be fined for violations was not discussed. Those ticketed by the city’s red light cameras are fined $60 for a first-offense.

“By rotating throughout your neighborhoods, you get a halo effect,” Willing said.

The city and Redflex would divide the money collected from fees. Willing said that breakdown is negotiable, but his company would not receive more than 50 percent of revenue generated.

“[I will] come back with numbers once I know what the scope is,” Willing said.

“Fixed systems are a little more expensive because there are construction costs to it … For a $100 ticket, it’s going to be less than 50 percent.”

Before any fines are issued, Selma will have to have a local bill approved in Montgomery and amend its city ordinance by a vote of the city council. The Alabama Legislature will not reconvene until late January.

Willing said Redflex had done business with Phenix City, Brantley and Center Point in Alabama and more than 400 communities nationwide.

The constitutionality of the cameras was also discussed.

Earlier this year, Phenix City was sued over the use of red light cameras, whether violations there are civil or criminal and whether local ordinance satisfies due process.

That case is pending, according to court records.

“We have some armchair justices in the community when we got the red light cameras. They called telling us how unconstitutional they were and all that, and we still have them,” said City Councilwoman Susan Youngblood.

Similar speed cameras through a company called American Traffic Solutions are no longer used in Montgomery.

Montgomery used cameras in unmanned police department cruisers and cited drivers $60 per violation.

However, the cameras were banned in 2016 after local representatives and senators pushed a bill through the Legislature saying they couldn’t be used in Montgomery.

Montgomery officials believed the cameras worked, telling The Montgomery Advertiser that annual fees collected from the cameras dropped from between $400,000 and $500,000 during the program’s first year to between $135,000 and $160,000.

Speed camera violations are considered civil offenses and don’t go on a person’s driving record.

Speed tickets issued by law enforcement officers are approximately $175, which includes court costs, and do go on the driver’s record.

Willing said the cameras and their constitutionality had been court tested in every state.

“If you don’t speed or don’t run a red light you never have to contribute to the program. It’s purely violator funded,” Willing said.

Installation would also not cost the city anything; however, Redflex would ask for up to a five-year contract.

“We’re sinking a lot of money into the construction,” Willing said, adding a three-year contract would be the minimum the company would accept.

Mayor Darrio Melton said if the city council approves the cameras the next step would be to ask State Rep. Prince Chestnut and State Sen. Hank Sanders to guide the change through the legislature next year.

“It addressed the speed issue within our community, and it’s a revenue generating stream for us,” Melton said.

City Councilman Michael Johnson said the cameras might be needed especially since the city was pulling up speed bumps due to damages to vehicles in the past, including emergency vehicles.

“I think this is something we need in our community because we all have problems [with speeding],” Johnson.

Councilman Carl Bowline asked if speed limits would be reviewed and possibly changed if cameras are ultimately installed.

“Some streets the speed limit is ridiculously low and some places it seems like it’s not followed so speed cameras would be great there,” Bowline said. “I think a review would be appropriate.”