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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 7, 2002

Camera van program must be revised, saved

At this point, lawmakers can hardly be blamed for wanting to repeal the state's traffic camera enforcement program as their constituents ring Capitol phones off their hooks. It appears three Senate committees may be poised to do just that this morning.

The program — unfortunately and quite needlessly — got off to a terrible start. The blame seems almost entirely attributable to the state Department of Transportation, and this is not the first time we've accused that department of insensitivity to the public it is supposed to serve.

For instance, the company that operates the program, ACS, State and Local Solutions, offered to mount an extensive public education program prior to the program's implementation. No need, said the department. Big mistake.

The company also has offered to work — as it does in most other cities it serves — for a flat fee instead of the misguided $29-per-ticket remuneration.

The din of the protest that greeted the program has been deafening. We can't recall an issue that received more letters to the editor. The majority of letters, some surprisingly shrill, have roundly condemned the program.

But a steady minority have consistently wondered why all these angry people are insisting on the right to break speed-limit laws.

It is to this thoughtful contingent that lawmakers should pay heed. The original purpose of the traffic camera enforcement program — remember? — was to reduce illegal speeding, the running of red lights and to save lives, a purpose that continues to deserve support.

We've learned a lot about how not to administer a traffic camera program. Indeed, we've written the book on the subject.

The easiest, safest course for lawmakers may well be to support repeal, but legislating is about more than instant gratification. We'd suggest they think through, for instance, the possible implications of repeal:

"A repeal will clearly be seen as a license to break the law," said Larry Geller in thoughtful testimony Tuesday. "The task at hand is to fix the law if it needs fixing, not to repeal it."

Now it's time to take the program back to the drawing board and figure out how to make it work. The basic concept is sound and ultimately will save a lot of lives.