GOP lawmakers may try to block traffic cameras
By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Transportation Writer
Several Republican state lawmakers say they'll move quickly next year to limit or even halt the state's new program that identifies traffic violators by using cameras and computers.
"Ultimately it's up to elected officials to do what people want," said state Rep. Charles Djou. "We shouldn't be forcing this down the throat if it's not something the people want."
The state this month began a three-year pilot program in which a contractor takes pictures of speeders and cars that run red lights and mails their owners a traffic citation.
The program, authorized under a 1998 state law (amended in 1999 and 2000), has drawn widespread protest from drivers worried about everything from their constitutional rights to increased auto insurance bills.
"I'm not saying we should shut it down," said Djou, R-47th (Kahalu'u, Kane'ohe). "But I do feel the public has raised some legitimate concerns, and we should look at limiting it or changing it to be more effective."
Rep. Joseph Souki, who heads the House Transportation Committee, said last week he's keeping an open mind on changes to the legislation.
"I kind of want to wait and see," said Souki, D-8th (Waiehu, Ma'alaea, Napili). "I'm thinking a lot about it, but I'm not sure what needs to be done, if anything at all."
Rep. Kika Bukoski said he's prepared to introduce as many as five bills that would limit or repeal the use in Hawai'i of the photo enforcement technology, which is used in more than 60 North American jurisdictions. It has been banned by lawmakers in at least two states, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
"I'm all for making the roads safer and enforcing the laws, but I don't think installing surveillance cameras is the way to do it," said Bukoski, R-10th (Upcountry Maui).
Bukoski said he's particularly interested in a bill that would limit the cameras to O'ahu.
He has contacted local officials and believes there is widespread consensus for keeping the cameras out of Maui and other Neighbor Islands.
"I understand that in the original legislation counties had the choice of participating in this or not," Bukoski said. "The law was later changed, though, to make it a statewide project. I plan to introduce legislation that will put the counties back into the loop."
Djou and Bukoski said they favor a proposal to treat the photo citations as parking tickets. The state Transportation Department has said it plans to ask the Legislature to make the change, which would keep the violations from showing up on drivers' traffic abstracts and affecting their insurance rates.
"Because the current program doesn't identify the driver, I don't think we should make the driver responsible for the problem," Bukoski said. "It would be a step in the right direction if we could keep these cameras from affecting insurance."
Sen. Cal Kawamoto, who heads the Senate Transportation Committee, has said he favors keeping the current legislation in place for its three-year trial period.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or firstname.lastname@example.org