Thursday, September 16, 1999

Say cheese,
speedy drivers

Honolulu, Maui plan to use
imaging devices to cite
traffic scofflaws

By Gary Kubota


You're late for work, driving 45 mph in a 30 mph zone.

No police officer stops you, so you think you got away with it. Three weeks later you receive a notice of a speeding fine in the mail, along with a photograph of your car traveling at 45 mph.

Starting about March of next year or perhaps earlier, drivers in Honolulu and Maui counties could begin receiving traffic tickets in this way. That's when police in the two jurisdictions plan to begin a demonstration project that enables them to detect speeding and traffic light violations by using imaging devices and sensors installed along highways.

"The objective is compliance and to make everybody slow down," said Maui police Lt. Charles Hirata of the traffic section.

The devices will record the speed and direction of the violating vehicles, along with the date and time of the offense and an image of the vehicle that includes its license plate number. In the case of traffic light violations, the device will record the image of a vehicle crossing during a red light as well as the number of seconds the light was yellow.

State laws enacted last year and this year allow the counties to cite violators through the use of imaging devices. Under the new laws, a registered owner whose vehicle is cited by an imaging device is responsible for paying the fine for the violation, unless able to prove another person was driving.

The demonstration project is scheduled to end by 2001, but state transportation officials plan to ask the Hawaii Legislature to extend the demonstration to three years.

The bill was introduced in 1997 and amended this year to broaden the project's application of new technology.

State transportation officials are developing guidelines to help the counties select private contractors to operate the devices and are expected to be finished with their work by the end of this month, said Bryan Kimura, acting state traffic operations engineer.

Kimura said the monitoring devices could be installed by about March of next year. The Big Island and Kauai are being invited to participate too, he said.

The demonstration program allows each county to install up to 25 detectors to monitor speed and another 25 to monitor red lights.

The demonstration isn't expected to cost taxpayers any money.

The operators of the monitoring devices will assume equipment, installation and operating costs, including the mailing of citations to violators. In return, the operators will get a portion of the fines generated by the devices.

Kimura said there will be a period of about a week initially when warnings rather than citations will be issued.

Police say studies show that the number of citations increases at first but eventually decreases as motorists begin to follow traffic laws more closely.

"They (the devices) also reduce crashes," said Honolulu police Sgt. Robert Lung.

According to a report by Lockheed Martin, one of the potential contractors, accidents decreased by more than 50 percent over five years at an intersection in National City, Calif., where the devices were used.

Officials haven't decided where the devices will be placed.

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