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Arizona Legislature

Arizona Lawmaker Pushes For New Speed Legislation

A screengrab of the video a speed-camera sent to driver Daniel Doty shows his car idling at a red light. Doty received a $40 fine for speeding.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- So if you see those posted speeds on highways as more of a suggestion than a limit, a Southern Arizona lawmaker has some legislation for you.

SB 1127 says that anyone driving up to 75 in a 65 mph zone can be cited not for speeding but the offense of `waste of a finite resource.''

What that means is a maximum fine of $15. And the state Department of Transportation cannot use it to add points to a person's driving record.
But perhaps the most significant factor -- and the reason most motorists would not bother to fight it -- is that ADOT can't report the citation to someone's insurance company, a move that likely would mean an increase in premiums.

The legislation contains a similar provision for roads posted at 75: Real fines and insurance reporting would not kick in unless the driver is clocked at more than 85.

To be fair, it's not like Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, is creating an entirely new buffer for motorists.

Back in the 1970s during the Arab oil embargo, the federal government told states they had to cap speed limits at 55 mph. States that failed to put such laws on the books faced loss of aid.
In 1980, however, Jim Hartdegen, then a Republican representative from Casa Grande, discovered a loophole.

The state would keep those double-nickel speed limit signs. But anyone going up to 10 miles over could be cited only under the "finite resource'' section.

That effectively restored 65 mph as the maximum speed limit on state highways without endangering those dollars from Washington.

The federal law is now gone and Arizona now has roads posted up to 75 mph. Gowan said his legislation simply reflects the current reality.

"We did not bring that 'waste of finite resource' up to date when we moved our speed limits,'' he said.

Anyway, Gowan said he sees this as providing an additional option for law enforcement.
"Police officers aren't out there trying to just tag you for everything,'' he said. "They want to keep things safe and rolling.''
So if they're not going to cite someone, that leaves them only with the option of a warning.
"So they'd like an extra tool to utilize in between those,'' Gowan said.

SB 1127 also does something else.

Under current law, it is a criminal offense to exceed a posted speed limit in a business or residential district by more than 20 miles an hour. That can land someone in jail for up to 30 days.

Anywhere else, that same law also makes it a crime to drive at more than 85 mph.
Gowan wants to update that last part to make the criminal penalty effective only if someone is doing at least 20 miles over the limit.

He acknowledged that on a road posted at 75 -- the current maximum in Arizona -- those criminal penalties would not kick in unless and until someone was clocked driving at lest 96 mph.
But Gowan said it's always been the understanding of the driving public that anything less than 20 miles over is a civil violation. His bill, he said, just brings the law info conformity with public perception.

The measure is scheduled for a hearing Thursday morning before the Senate Committee on Transportation and Technology.

Gowan managed to get a virtually identical measure out of the Senate last year on a 17-13 vote. But it never got a hearing in the House.

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