The basic questions
|||The critical questions|
|||How the speeding program works|
|||Where the cameras are|
Q: Who receives the citation?
A: Citations are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, who is liable for the payment unless the owner declares that someone else was driving.
Q. How much will I have to pay?
A. Speeding fines start at $27, plus $5 for every mile per hour over the speed limit. That means if you're caught doing 55 mph in a 45-mph zone, the ticket will be $77. If the fine is paid on or after the court date, the base increases to $52. Additional penalties may be assessed if payment is more than 30 days past the court date.
Q. What happens to that money?
A: The vendor, Affiliated Computer Services Inc., gets $29.25 for each citation issued. The state judiciary gets $7 from each fine to pay for administrative and education costs. Another $20 from each fine goes to the state General Fund.The remainder goes into a $5 million revolving fund to cover state expenses for operating the program. The state says it will ask the Legislature this year to earmark such additional money for highway safety education programs.
Q: Will my insurance go up if I get a ticket?
A: Likely so. The Traffic Violations Bureau says it will record all moving violations on a driver's abstract, and insurance companies frequently use these driving records as one of their key indicators in setting rates.
Q: Can I challenge the ticket in court?
A: Yes. You can either write the court a written explanation or request a hearing before a judge.
Q: Will that cost me more?
A: Maybe. Registered owners who receive a citation may ask that a representative of the company issuing the citation appear in court with them at their initial appearance. That costs $25. However, most people don't do this. They plead their case before the judge at the initial hearing. If the case goes to trial, there is no subpoena fee for the defendant.
Q: What if I simply refuse to pay the ticket?
A: The court will assume you are guilty. A stop will be placed on the vehicle's registration, and you won't be able register your car or renew your driver's license until the fine is paid.
Q: Who authorized all of this?
A: In 1998, the state Legislature passed a law (Act 234) authorizing photo enforcement in the state. That law was amended twice, in 1999 (Act 263) and 2000 (Act 240). The law instructed the Department of Transportation to implement the program. The authorizing legislation specifically allows a private contractor to be used for this type of law enforcement.
Q: Why aren't the police doing this work instead?
A: Officially, police say the privately run cameras supplement their work, leaving them free for other duties. But privately, some police officers say they resent the loss of their enforcement responsibilities to a private business.
Q: Is all of this really legal?
A: That remains to be seen in Hawai'i but, in general, courts throughout North America have upheld these programs. Usually when they've been ended, it's been done by political, not legal, action.
Q: How much revenue is this program generating?
A: ACS officials describe this program as a $14 million contract, but they also say the revenue is solely dependent on driver behavior. The more people speed, the more money the program generates. No taxpayer money is used to pay for the program; it's entirely paid for by fines.
Q: Come on, isn't this really just a way to generate money for the state?
A: Officials say no. They say nothing would please them more than to stop speeding altogether and, thus, get no income from the program.
Q: Still, since the vendor is paid a percentage of each citation issued, doesn't that create an unsavory incentive to issue more tickets?
A: The state Transportation Department says it is sensitive to this concern. In some other areas, legal challenges to this type of pay-as-you-go system have been made, and contracts have been changed to reflect the opposition. The state says it may explore the possibility of switching its contract with ACS to a flat-fee system to avoid this problem.
Q: Will government vehicles get citations?
A: The government says all federal, state and county vehicles that violate the law will receive citations. The only exceptions will be emergency vehicles with their flashing blue lights on.
Q: What about motorcycles?
A: Many people have suggested that motorcycle drivers get an unfair break because they don't have any front license plates to take a picture of. The cameras can take pictures of cars and motorcycles coming and going.
Q: What if I get two or more tickets on the same day. Do I have to pay for all of them?
Q: How are the cameras used to catch red-light runners?
A. Sensors in the pavement will trigger a series of photographs showing the vehicle as it moves through the intersection and a close-up of the license plate. A computer will record the date, time and location of the infraction and how long the light had been red before the car entered the intersection.
Q. If I'm already in an intersection when the light turns red, will I still get a ticket?
A. No. Only those who enter the intersection after the light changes will be photographed and cited.
Q. What happens if I'm waiting to make a left-hand turn?
A. Nothing. As long as you were in the intersection before the light changed, you can continue with your turn without being cited.
Q: Are the red-light cameras operating now?
A: No. A few engineer problems are still being worked out, according to state and city officials. The first cameras at intersections are expected to go on line by the end of January.
Correction: The state Judiciary receives $7 for its Drivers Education Special Fund from each fine generated by the new photo enforcement program. Another $20 from each fine goes to the state General Fund. Also, a default judgment will be issued against anyone named in a citation who does not respond. A previous version of this story had different information.