Interstate 95 runs up and down the east coast, and near one small town in South Carolina a section of the interstate is being patrolled by a photo-radar.
Ridgeland, S.C. has the areas' only stretch of I-95 that is using cameras to help catch people speeding. The camera works by taking photos of the car, driver, and license plate at the time of the violation. The driver of the car is then mailed a speeding ticket.
The Mayor of Ridgeland, Gary Hodges, is an advocate of the program saying that the cameras are working by slowing people down, reducing accidents, and saving lives. However, many opponents say that the system is just a "money maker" and can be viewed as selective law enforcement. Violaters say that receiving a ticket in the mail is not fair and you should be pulled over by law enforcement and be aware that you have been caught speeding.
Speed cameras are used in 14 states and the District of Columbia according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The cameras have brought controversy in other states besides South Carolina as well. Just last year, Arizona ended a two-year program using speed cameras on its roads partly because the perception was prevelant that they were just being used to build revenue.
Mayor Hodges says the cameras are working and obtaining the goal. From January to July of 2010, there were 55 crashes and 4 deaths. From August to the end of February 2011, there were 38 crashes and no fatalities. He says that from the time the cameras started operating through the end of February, there has been more than a 50% drop in the number of motorists going 81 MPH or more. AAA Carolinas says that you must be doing more than 80 MPH to be issued a ticket. However, this is where the controversy begins because it is not ticketing all speeders; just those going over 80 MPH. It is why the opponents are calling it "selective law enforcement." In fact, state law prohibits issuing tickets solely on photographic evidence, however Mayor Hodges says this doesn't apply in Ridgeland because an officer is also there to see the speeder from an observation van. Federal law contends that it is unconstitutional to send tickets by mail to motorists and also to addresses outside of the town limits.
So, the controversy continues as highway officials report safer roads, fewer crashes, and fewer deaths related to speeding. The cameras are currently still in use and have not replaced actual officers patrolling the highway.