Tuesday, February 5, 2002

State of Hawaii

Photo freeze

A key senator now backs
a moratorium on the
traffic snapshot program

By Crystal Kua

The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee -- a key supporter of the state's traffic camera vans -- wants the program suspended until the legal ramifications are hammered out by the courts.

Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu) said he has not backed off on his support of the program, but will float the idea today of a moratorium in the form of a resolution.

Kawamoto's proposal will be part of a hearing that also has on its agenda bills calling for a repeal of the program. One of the repeal bills was introduced by a group of Democrats led by Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa, who is in favor of scrapping the program and starting over.

"It's a good idea to create a moratorium because we don't know what the court's going to decide. What is a good ticket? They may decide constitutionally that it's not correct to give an owner a ticket and not the driver," Kawamoto said.

"I'm saying that we should maybe create a moratorium until such time as we know what the courts decisions are on these kinds of things."

Kawamoto wants the program suspended until Feb. 20, the day after the court date for the first batch of tickets issued to registered owners of cars caught speeding on camera.

Legal questions -- which include the vendor getting paid a portion of each fine collected from the tickets -- as well as negative public opinion have dogged the traffic camera vans since they were announced late last year.

Transportation Director Brian Minaai said that Kawamoto talked to him in passing about the moratorium, but he does not have enough information on what the measure would say to determine whether the department would support it.

"I would need to look at the details and then assess," Minaai said.

But Minaai said that because the program was created by the Legislature, he would follow the wishes of state lawmakers.

"If the Legislature so mandated it, we would have to comply," he said.

Kawamoto said his proposal of a moratorium does not mean his support has fallen off.

"Nothing's changed," he said. "It's just that I support the program, and we got to keep it alive. And for me, to keep it alive means to make some concessions of the concerns that's out there. I'm willing to do that."

He said he believes the program is doing what it is supposed to do: slowing drivers down.

"I think the program is good. The program is working. We're slowing the speeders," he said.

Kawamoto said once the red-light cameras at Oahu intersections are working, that should reduce drivers running red lights.

Minaai said that the Transportation Department has also made changes in order to keep the traffic camera program going, including modifications announced last week that would keep the vans operating overnight and keeping vans away from areas that could be perceived as speed traps.

Minaai also pointed to another example of compromise, the department speaking in favor of a House bill today that would make the photo camera tickets like a parking citation instead of a moving violation, which would end up on drivers' records. That bill has been deferred.

"That's another way to operate this program with the objective of safety," Minaai said.

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