Friday, January 25, 2002

Traffic-cam haters
jam Senate hearing

11 senators have co-signed a bill
that would end the project

ACLU and lawyers to hold forum

By Rod Antone

Nanakuli resident Dean Papagno wants to make it clear that he opposes the Department of Transportation's traffic camera vans. However, Papagno told state Senate Transportation Committee members yesterday, if the vans have to be somewhere, they should be put in less urban areas where speeders are a real problem.

"My youngest daughter goes to Nanaikapono (Elementary School) on Farrington Highway," said Papagno. "People fly down that road.

"Put the vans or cameras or whatever in common-sense places ... places it's needed and going to be effective."

Papagno's concerns were echoed by others testifying during an informational hearing before the committee about the Department of Transportation's photo enforcement project. Objections to the project ranged from the placement of the vans and reliability of camera technology to whether the citations would hold up in court.

"You're issuing tickets based on a picture of a license plate," said Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Kailua-Waimanalo). "What happens if someone says they weren't driving?

"The burden of proof is on the registered owner ... so they have to prove their innocence." The hearing even drew a vacationing Minnesota Highway Safety Center instructor, who said the traffic situation on Oahu recently was so bad that he turned in his rental car.

"You have elevated road rage. ... You've created a tremendous safety hazard," said Nito Quitevis. "People are dynamiting the brakes looking for these traffic vans. ... They're not paying attention to traffic."

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae-Makaha) said 11 senators have co-signed a bill that would end the traffic camera project immediately.

Most of the outcry came from GOP members.

"I would like to formally ask you to pull your traffic vans off the Pali and Likelike highways," said Sen. Bob Hogue (R, Kaneohe-Enchanted Lake). "Currently, two of the four photo enforcement vans are often on these Windward travel routes. This disproportionately targets Windward residents compared to the entire Oahu driving population.

"These traffic cameras are totally unfair."

Other committee members such as committee Vice Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga said the situation might be cleared by something as simple as increased communication. Fukunaga and others asked that the Transportation Department along with the vendor running the project for the state, Affiliated Computer Services, attend more public gatherings such as neighborhood boards to let communities know when the vans will be in the area.

"I hope there's some sort of win-win situation," said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Palama-Alewa Heights). "I don't think a total repeal (of the project) is an answer."

ACS officials said they would make a greater effort to communicate van locations with communities. Otherwise, they say the controversy they have seen so far is not any worse than other states where they have attempted to introduce the traffic camera system.

"The initial reaction is quite similar: public outcry," said Tom Hodgkins, ACS director of government relations. "But as the program becomes more accepted and more understood, you see increased support. As soon as you see results, support will go up."

Transportation Director Brian Minaai said after the hearing that he is going to concentrate on getting the red-light camera program under way before worrying about expanding the camera vans to other areas. Minaai said the concerns expressed at the hearing are both understandable and typical of any project that seeks to change human behavior.

"The motorcycle helmet law, mandatory seat belt use, stricter blood-alcohol levels ... all enforcement issues, all very controversial," said Minaai. "The difference is that with those other issues, we were targeting specific groups of people. Here we're trying to change the behavior of the entire driving population."

ACLU and lawyers
to hold forum
on traffic cameras

Star-Bulletin staff

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has announced that it will be holding a forum to address the state's traffic camera project and the rights of motorists. The forum is free to the public and is aimed at providing information to those who may wish to contest their tickets.

"The state would like motorists to just throw up their hands and pay the tickets," said ACLU Legal Director Brent White. "However, the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person issued the ticket was the driver of the vehicle."

"This forum will help individuals understand how to negotiate the court system without giving up valuable rights."

The forum will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Blaisdell Center Auditorium, Pikake Room, on Feb. 5. Forum panelists will include White and several local criminal defense attorneys.

No reservations are needed to attend the forum. For more information, contact the ACLU at 522-5900 or e-mail at

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