Two new photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares

Two more Tucson intersections are now graced with the overseeing eye of photo enforcement red light cameras – that means two Tucson intersections will now be more nightmarish.

Two new traffic cameras go live this week/Thinkstock image

The intersection of East Grant and North Swan roads is lucky recipient of one of the cameras, while the other camera perches prettily at East Speedway Boulevard and North Kolb Road.

Both cameras were expected to go live at 6 a.m. Monday, according to a news release from the Tucson Police Department. Motorists get a break the first week, the release notes, with only warnings being issued. After that, you’re on your own.

The nightmare does not necessarily come from receiving tickets from these automated traffic enforcers. The nightmare comes from the additional hazards they pose because of the way motorists react to the cameras.

When they see a traffic camera, a goodly number of drivers are immediately struck by deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

Rather than driving along as they normally would, obeying the speed limit or only exceeding it by 9 mph which still won’t merit a ticket, some motorists suddenly slam on their brakes and move at crawl slower than that of an injured animal.

Perhaps we should call it wounded deer syndrome, rather than deer-in-the-headlights.

To witness this phenomenon firsthand, take a drive down East River Road, where a camera stabs its roving eye on both eastbound and westbound lanes near Country Club Road.

That stretch of River Road’s speed limit of 40 is a touch too slow to begin with for such a wide, smooth expanse. Put the speed camera on the sidelines and some drivers suddenly slam to crawl of as low as 28 mph.

While the City of Tucson website says excessive speed is a factor in 20 percent of traffic fatalities, it does not note how many crashes come from folks driving at the pace of wounded deer.

Stopping is not often the problem - MOVING is/Ryn Gargulinski

Red light running, the violation noted by the intersection cameras, is another hazard that can easily lead to death.

Yet also distressing, and even more common, are drivers who continue to sit idle when the light turns green. Others will only start to move, begrudgingly and at that painful, wounded pace, when the piled-up lane of drivers behind them start honking or yelling words that start with the letter F.

If the photo enforcement cameras are meant to help Tucson traffic, rather than serve to hinder it and produce a bunch of paranoid motorists, they need to widen their scope.

No, photo enforcement cameras should not have the power to bust people for any violation on the books, just those on the opposite end of the spectrum from speeding and red light running.

Instead of only snapping away at cars going too fast, cameras should capture and punish those going below the minimum speed limit.

Rather than only photographing vehicles that barrel through red lights, they should also nab folks who sit idle at green ones, thereby hindering the flow of traffic.

Getting rid of the cameras is not option the City would go for. Too much money, time and effort has been invested. But making them work to better traffic may be.

Two laws photo enforcement cameras should include in their scope:

ARS 28-704. Minimum speed limits; requirement to turn off roadway

A. A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when either of the following applies:

1. Reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

2. The reasonable flow of traffic exceeds the maximum safe operating speed of the lawfully operated implement of husbandry.

B. If the director or local authorities within their respective jurisdictions determine on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that slow speeds on any part of a highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, the director or local authority may determine and declare a minimum speed limit below which a person shall not drive a vehicle except when necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

C. If a person is driving a vehicle at a speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe, and if five or more vehicles are formed in a line behind the vehicle, the person shall turn the vehicle off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the director or a local authority, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed.

ARS 28-873. Stopping, standing or parking prohibitions; exceptions; definition (excerpt)

A. Except if necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or if in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or traffic control device, a person shall not stop, stand or park a vehicle in any of the following places:

1. On a sidewalk.

2. In front of a public or private driveway…

3. Within an intersection….


What do you think?

Have you been busted by a photo enforcement camera?

Have you seen drivers react to the cameras in strange ways?

Should photo enforcement cameras check for other violations beyond red lights and speeding?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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31 Responses to Two new photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares

  1. tiponeill says:

    I have confidence that over time even Tucson drivers can learn to stop when the light turns red, and go when it turns green.
    It may just take them a little time.

  2. Ray says:

    So, basicall the issue is that Tucson driver’s are not smart enough to adapt to the cameras flash or change their driving behavior to going the speed limit and actually stopping at a red light? Interesting take. In the 50+ years I have been driving a red light has always meant stop and violating that meant you get a ticket if caught. Since the cameras increase the chances of getting caught running those pesky lights, it’s easy to dumb down the driver’s. If you can’t modify your driving to obeying the laws of the road and are easily distracted (wounded deer syndrome) by flashing camera lights, cops or other motorists pulled to the side of the road, things flying out of trucks on the roadway, people changing lanes quickly without signaling or allowing enough safe room, as well as other every day distractions that come with driving, then park the car and take a bus.

    • BigRigger says:

      Yeah! I drive a truck for a living and have spent years on the road. I’ve driven all over this country and the thing that always surprises me is how few good drivers there actually are. Most drivers should NOT be driving, they are simply not skilled enough or too easily distracted. I can’t count how many accidents I have seen just this year. I think your suggestion about parking your car and taking a bus is one of the best suggestions I’ve heard on here.
      Concerning red light cameras:
      If you’re a good driver then you’ve got nothing to worry about because you’re naturally going to stop.
      If your a bad driver then this might be your chance to become a good driver. Albeit, it may cost you in fines but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Not to mention that you just might save someone else’s life, by not smashing your car into them.

  3. ado1 says:

    Some folks are a bit slow when it comes to adapting to new technology.  Not to worry,  their learning curve will improve eventually.  Obeying the law may take some longer than others to learn. Look at how slowly our Mexican neighbors are adapting to U.S. Immigration Law.

  4. wildcats says:

    Since when was it acceptable to start referring to law enforcement as a “traffic nightmare?” For me, a “traffic nightmare” would be a road closure for a fatal accident caused by someone trying to beat a red light. Regardless, the cameras free up our police officers. I remember when you used to see officers camped out a big intersections waiting for someone to run a red light – let’s be honest, our officers have better things to do.

  5. Stef says:

    Safety on the road is the most important. And while driving there are some helpful tools you can use to be more aware of things like red light cameras, road hazards, live police, etc. For example Trapster, a free mobile phone application that alerts drivers to red light cameras, speed cameras, live police, road hazards, etc. It’s helpful not only preventing tickets but also getting drivers to slow down and hopefully make them more aware of upcoming ticketing cameras.

  6. It has been shown time and time again that red light cameras CAUSE accidents. Accidents more than doubled in Peoria. Avondale removed their red light cameras because they didn’t see any improvement. Other cities have removed their cameras for the same reasons. Why does Tucson insist on making the roads more dangerous just to raise more cash? And where are the traffic engineering studies which show the primary cause of accidents at these locations, what solutions were evaluated, and what solutions were recommended by traffic engineers?

    • Jime says:

      I think you may want to cite your source because I have a friend that is an ER nurse in another area that has had enforcement cams and she has seen quite the opposite. According to her, the hospital she works at has seen a decline in intersection accidents after the city decided to put up red light cams. The decline can be explained by the fact that severe accidents are reduced by the use of these lights. You will always have accidents but the severity goes down with red light cams because people are more likely to run the lights when there is more signage and an increased risk in being caught. Basically people are more aware and have more incentive to stop.

      • Jime says:

        “You will always have accidents but the severity goes down with red light cams because people are more likely to run the lights when there is more signage and an increased risk in being caught.”
        Should be:
        “You will always have accidents but the severity goes down with red light cams because people are less likely to run the lights when there is more signage and an increased risk in being caught.”

    • cruisintucson says:

      How do the cameras cause accidents? Do they jump out from the side of the road prompting people to swerve and crash into one another? No. They make people aware of the fact that they must follow the law and will be held to the consequences if they don’t. If someone stops instead of blowing through a light and gets rear ended A) it is the fault of the person behind them who hit them, and B) that person must have been breaking the law too, seeing as they were probably speeding or tailgating, rendering them unable to stop in time.

  7. Jerry says:

    The real traffic nightmare is people who are already cruising 15 miles over the limit. Slamming on brakes is a product of bad driving in the first place… you don’t get rid of a solution like a red-light camera that helps correct a bad behavior just because of another poor driving habit. Both need to be fixed. That said, while it’s annoying when someone sits at a green, it’s not a ticketable offense. There’s such a thing as penalizing to the letter of the law, and penalizing where it helps increase safety. Sitting at a green isn’t hazardous, running through a red light is.

  8. Stan says:

    @Jerry I couldn’t agree more with you. I hate seeing accidents that could have been entirely avoided if a person would have just waited one more second. Sometimes the difference between being at the wrong place at the wrong time and not is merely a second’s wait away. When the light turns green don’t gun it, wait a moment then go. We need to be our own police and throttle our behavior. Some of us have that ability but unfortunately the vast majority of people are in too much of a hurry and not thinking about others to do so. Which is why I feel that these intersection cameras are a good way of getting us to drive in a more self policing and thoughtful way.

  9. cubuffalo says:

    Of course drivers are not going to like getting a ticket no matter how it is issued.
    But, we all know these systems work. They reduce property damage and personal injuries.  They have become a fact of life and a valuable tool in traffic enforcement.

    • TouchtoneDeftone says:

      I think that one of the best things about these hi tech red light cameras is that an officer does not have to be parked at the dangerous intersection all day to issue the ticket. Instead that officer can be out responding to more severe issues. I for one like the idea that this would reduce the response time for an officer to get to my house in the event of a home invasion or worse.

  10. Rynski says:

    wow – i am impressed by all the input on the issue – thanks for comments thus far –
    gave me a lot to think about…and i DO hope those who theorize that drivers will get used to hi-tech devices are correct. and i absolutely adore ray’s solution (above) that those who cannot drive properly should park and take the bus (hahahahhah).
    also surprised by poll results so far, with help and hinder running neck and neck!

  11. Mark Reed says:

    I wonder if the author would say the samething about an officer sitting on the side of the road monitoring traffic. An officer has the same effect as a camera, but I don’t see articles written complaining about enforcement by them. I do agree that the scope of enforcement should include those who impede traffic.

    • Rynski says:

      hi mark reed…since you asked…
      if the officer’s presence made a notable number of motorists slam on the brakes and drive approximately 12 mph under the limit – which, as you noted, also happens to be the case – i would then say:
      officers, too, should DEFINITELY ticket people in the same way proposed, by giving them tickets for going lower than the minimum speed limit and impeding the traffic flow.
      perhaps officers don’t get the same attention as speed cameras with regard to such complaints because the officers are mobile. even if they are ‘usually’ in a given location, there is no guarantee they will ‘always’ be at the same location.
      speed cameras are permanently perched, much like vultures above a carcass…

  12. Jimmy says:

    The pure and simple fact is that the drivers in Tucson are terrible anyways.  The cameras do not cause any more accidents than would normally happen and in fact reduce them.  yes, people may slow down and may cause some stress from other drivers, but on the roads like Speedway where there is constant congestion and the speed limit is already low, the cameras will at least make people think twice about trying to make that light and possibly causing more congestion with an accident.

  13. Alan in Kent WA says:

    Here in the P.R.S, we have cameras in Tukwila, the shopping mall that is also a city.  I would rather see cops out, like here in Kent.  Nothing brings on momentary compliance like someone pulled off the side of the road.  I think that 5% of the drivers are 95% of  the trouble.  Therefore, I think that it would be easier to put a transmitter on them and remove them from the highway than to mess with the rest of us. 

    • Rynski says:

      ha! thanks, alan in kent wa –
      putting sensors on that abominable 5 percent, and then perhaps plopping them at the bus stop, is a dandy idea!

  14. Joy L. says:

    I think the main point of this article is that Tucson drivers are just plain bad. Slow drivers and bad roads lead to bad driving all the way around. The only good thing about Tucson roads is that there are red light cameras! It is the tiny bit of solace I get for having to drive here.

  15. Kyle says:

    i’ll tell you what – the nightmare is finding out you lost a loved one because a leadfoot punched the gas to make it through the light.

  16. Jim says:

    People need to learn how to drive better.  Part of it is not slowing to a crawl, but I feel more at risk when people are barreling around at 60 in a 40 zone than when a person is going 28.  One pisses me off, the other puts my life and everyone on the roads at risk.

  17. Tom says:

    The reason people speed in Tucson is because most of the speed limits are too slow. Bump up the limits except in residential and school zones and start ticketing slow drivers. Red light cameras are fine, but not speed ones until speed limits are reasonable.

  18. yogilives says:

    What a bunch of baloney, somehow drivers being overly cautious about going through an intersection is more dangerous than some reckless driver blowing through a red light into traffic? I think not. Enforcing our traffic laws deters reckless driving and the more coverage the more deterrence. No number of street cops can match the 24/7 coverage red light cameras provide so let’s use them, the life they save might be your own!

  19. Sunshine says:

    I have no problem with these cameras.  I think the article exaggerates the impact on drivers.  People get used to these things pretty quickly.

  20. JANE SMITH says:

    Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

  21. Ammasbear says:

    Ok So now they have spent millions of dollars on this so this means the cops are freed up now to protect us right??? Maybe they can show up quickly when I have a prowler in my back yard instead of showing up two hours later. Jeez I can’t believe this is happening actually. Police state folks they are watching us everywhere they are charging us ridiculous fees for these entrappments and still they aren’t not really serving the public anymore as law enforcement was originally designed to do.

  22. Ammasbear says:

    PS Time to wake up and see that things are really REALLY WRONG  in  AMERICA.

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