Now that traffic van cameras are off the road, the planned red-light violator camera program, targeted for sites such as this intersection of Punchbowl Street and Vineyard Boulevard, also will be repealed.

Shutdown of
van cams may
cost $8 million

And a judge rules it's up to
the state to prove the owner
of the car was driving when
the ticket was issued

Facts regarding program's end

By Nelson Daranciang

Gov. Ben Cayetano permanently shut the state's highly unpopular traffic camera program yesterday, which could cost taxpayers as much as $8 million.

Brian Minaai, state Department of Transportation director, said he believes the state owes the vendor who operated the van cameras, Affiliated Computer Services, $1 million to $1.5 million for terminating the program four months into the company's three-year contract.

But ACS believes the state's liability is much higher, he acknowledged.

"Preliminary cost estimates that the ACS has verbally expressed to us is in area of between $5 million and $8 million," Minaai said.

ACS representatives declined to comment.

The camera vans were pulled off the road yesterday after Cayetano ordered the end of the Photo Traffic Enforcement Program. Cayetano's order came after leaders in the state House said Tuesday night that they intended to go along with their colleagues in the Senate who already voted to repeal the law that established the program.

This morning a state judge dealt the program another setback -- ruling that the state has the burden of proving the registered owner of a car was in fact driving the vehicle when the citations were issued.

Defense attorneys argued that the program is unconstitutional because the tickets are sent to the registered owner of the vehicle and state assumes that the registered owner of the car was driving when the vehicle was photographed.

The photographs do not always identify the driver.

The ruling, by District Court Judge Leslie A. Hayashi, affects only cases that go to trials.

In the first three months of the program, ACS issued 16,858 photo speeding citations.

The state has paid ACS about $140,000 for January and February and received a bill for $181,000 for March. However, by the end of March, the state had collected only $105,757 from speeding tickets issued by the camera vans to pay ACS.

The difference was to be made up by a $5 million Photo Enforcement Revolving Fund in the state highway fund.

That money also will be used to pay the state's liability to ACS for terminating the program early, Minaai said. If the negotiated settlement with ACS exceeds what is in the revolving fund, the DOT will have to ask state lawmakers for the difference.

The camera van program was scheduled to move to other islands this summer. But since it began on Oahu in January, the program has faced harsh criticism and legal challenges as attorneys find various loopholes to exploit.

Judges threw out the first batch of citations on a technicality that later was fixed, only to have lawyers successfully argue that all tickets issued for drivers going less than 10 mph over the speed limit be dismissed because it conflicts with police practice.

Lawmakers in the state House, meanwhile, were expected to vote on a repeal measure today. The majority Democrats in the House previously voted to amend the law to try to salvage the program.

"I'm glad that both the House and the governor probably ... decided that we've had enough debate, we've had enough public input," said Colleen Hanabusa, Senate vice president (D, Waianae).

Hanabusa led the charge in the Senate to kill the program.

Republican lawmakers who led the effort in the state House said an earlier statement by the governor that he would not veto a repeal coupled with a pending court decision on the constitutionality of the traffic camera law played a role in moving along a repeal.

"I think the House Democrats finally listened and discovered that they were on the losing end, that they really shouldn't be keeping this system," said Charles Djou (R, Kaneohe), House minority floor leader.

The legislation does not make the repeal retroactive, so people who have received photo citations need to respond by their assigned court dates or face default judgments. Fines already paid will not be reimbursed.

Minaai said the move by lawmakers in the state House was a surprise.

"I had talked to the speaker the last couple of days, and he had not expressed that intent to support the Senate position," he said. "Now we're going to have to settle the financial impact of that decision."

Minaai said he believes the program was effective in getting drivers to slow down to prevent traffic fatalities in its short life and would have been even more effective if it had been implemented for a longer period of time.

Without the camera vans, the DOT will deploy more speed indicator trailers, install more small speed bumps and conduct more educational programs to try to get Oahu motorists to slow down, Minaai said.

The DOT also plans to install barriers to separate opposing traffic on Farrington Highway in Nanakuli and Waianae to reduce head-on collisions, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Facts regarding the
traffic cam program’s end

Star-Bulletin staff

Here are some answers to questions in the aftermath of the van cam program's demise:

Question: If I received a camera van ticket, do I still have to pay it or challenge it in court?

Answer: Those who have received a ticket are still required to respond by their designated court date or face a default judgment.

Q: If I already paid a traffic camera ticket, can I get my money back?

A: Fines will not be reimbursed because the pending repeal of the traffic photo enforcement program is not retroactive.

Q: What happens to the various pending legal challenges to the program?

A: The pending repeal will have no effect on cases already in the legal system.

Q: What will happen to the planned red-light traffic camera program that was part of the same state traffic camera enforcement program?

A: The entire program, which includes the red-light photo enforcement program, will be repealed, according to Brian Minaai, state transportation director.

State of Hawaii

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