Friday, November 30, 2001

$25 fee planned
for those fighting
traffic tickets

The fee is part of a new system
to catch speeders and drivers
who run red lights

By Rod Antone

Motorists will have to pay up to $25 in subpoena fees if they want to challenge the state's new photo traffic citations.

Beginning Dec. 17, motorists caught on camera either speeding on state highways or freeways or running red lights at designated intersections will receive photo citations in the mail.

Unlike the old method, in which a police officer shows up if to testify if someone contests the ticket, Transportation spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said the cited person will have to pay to have someone there.

"That's to have the company representative show up with the records," Kali said. "The only way to get that money back is to prove they weren't at fault."

The program begins sending out warnings to violators Monday. Actual citations will begin Dec. 17.

Questions about how to challenge the citations were among a dozen e-mails the Honolulu Star-Bulletin received in response to Tuesday's article about the photo enforcement project.

Other questions involved how strictly the speed limit would be enforced, and whether "going 36 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone" was something that deserved a citation.

In response, Kali said, "If we tell people that we have a threshold, they why set the speed limit at all?"

However, she added later the state will be looking at those speeding "excessively."

"Does that mean they're always going to get a citation if they are going two miles over the speed limit? Probably not," she said.

Kali said there will be a state representative that will also be overseeing the day-to-day operation of Affiliated Computer Services USA, a Dallas-based vendor that will be operating the cameras and mailing citations.

The overseer is an ex-Honolulu police officer who will verify the validity of the citations. Kali said.

"If the license plate number isn't clear, if the photo doesn't have the speed posted, or if you can't see where the violation takes place, then it's not complete and that citation will be discarded," said Kali, who pointed out that no one is exempt from the camera's eye -- "even the governor."

Kali also commented on questions posed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which pointed out that Hawaii is paying ACS a percentage of the citations instead of a flat rate. A San Diego court ruled that such payment was not acceptable and that a flat rate be implemented.

Kali said that while the state was aware of the ruling, paying by a percentage was the only way to get the three-year project started without having the state pay for it.

"We had no way of knowing whether we'd issue a hundred tickets, a thousand or 10,000 tickets, so it was really hard to budget for," she said. "It's possible that after the project period is over that we switch to a flat rate."

As for questions about what the process will do for insurance rates, GEICO General Manger Tim Dayton said customers need to look at the overall insurance picture.

Dayton said if a percentage of people start paying higher premiums because they are getting more citations, that means less of a burden for those who are not getting citations.

"To the extent that this helps an insurance company identify who should have a higher rate and who should have a lower rate, I think the safer driver will come out in the long run," Dayton said.

Drivers, beware

State highway intersections where cameras will be used to catch motorists who run red lights include:

>> Farrington Highway and Nanakuli Avenue
>> Fort Weaver Road and Aawa Drive/Old Fort Weaver Road
>> H-1 Exit 18 East and Middle Street
>> Kalanianaole Highway and Ainakoa Avenue/Waikui Street
>> Kamehameha Highway and Pali Momi Street
>> Kunia Road and Kupuna Loop
>> Likelike Highway and Kahekili Highway
>> Nimitz Highway and Kalihi Street
>> Pali Highway and School Street
>> Vineyard Boulevard and Punchbowl Street

State transportation officials also intend to add cameras to 15 Oahu intersections by next year. Cameras are also expected to be used on the Big Island, Kauai and Maui by mid-2002.

E-mail to City Desk

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