Pulling a Fast One

A cluster of cities eager to cash in on photo-radar speed traps decides to sue the state.

"This new legislation is a joke," says Merrigan. "For example, if a cop pulls you over going 30 mph over the speed limit, you're going to get a hefty fine and points on your license. If you get caught doing the same thing by a photo-radar unit, you only have to pay $40, the maximum penalty under the new law. There are no other consequences. I'd rather get caught by the photo radar, pay the fine and say what the heck. And let's face it: One of the biggest deterrents for speeders is getting points on their license and having their insurance go up. It takes the teeth out of the program."

Fort Collins has been able to keep its program running despite the legislative limitations. But City Attorney John Duval says it's been tough.

"It's reduced the effectiveness of the system in several ways," says Duval. "Not only has it limited the amount of the fine, but it's also impaired our ability to serve notice on unpaid tickets. Typically, the tickets are sent by mail, and if you ignore that first ticket, we've got to serve you in person. Before SB 36 was passed, we had one year from the issuance of the ticket to track the speeder down and collect the fine. If they didn't pay, we could have the DMV put a hold on their driver's license when they tried to renew it. It was a collection guarantee. Now we only have ninety days to collect on the ticket or it gets thrown out. The effectiveness of the program has been significantly reduced."

The cities that filed suit insist that they are concerned about the state's intrusion into local issues. "What it all comes down to is, we don't want the state stepping all over us," says Merrigan. "We're trying to assert that control of traffic on local streets is a local concern superseding state law."

Dorroh, who's been a traffic engineer for 28 years, agrees. "It's not the state's business," he says. "If you have a problem with traffic in Denver, you don't call the legislature. You call us."

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