Paradise Valley Photo Enforcement Program

Why is Photo Radar Important?

In 1987 the Paradise Valley Police Department became the first agency in the nation to utilize photo enforcement. At that time Council authorized the use of photo enforcement in direct response to a steady increase of collisions in Town. That year there were over 400 reported traffic collisions. After photo enforcement was deployed the Town realized a 47% decrease in collisions. Traffic safety has always been one of the top concerns expressed by our residents. In 2013 the Public Safety Task Force, a committee comprised of 50 residents, requested an expansion to the photo enforcement program. That expansion was completed, and in 2017 there were only 208 collisions reported in Town. A 50% overall reduction of traffic collisions from the numbers reported 30 years ago, considering the increasing population/traffic count and distraction of drivers, is a definite success.

Photo enforcement improves traffic safety in two ways. It helps stop collisions from occurring, and it reduces damage to people and property when they do occur. The photo enforcement cameras are set to record a violation when a vehicle is traveling 11 mph over the posted speed limit. This keeps traffic speeds in Town lower as people seek to stay under that 11 mph threshold. Slower speeds equate to a much shorter distance required to stop. At 40 mph a car will travel 59 feet before the driver can recognize the need to stop and start applying the brakes. At 40 mph that car on dry pavement can stop once the brakes are applied in just over 76 feet. It will take a driver at 40 mph a total of 135 feet from the time they recognize an emergency to come to a stop. At 51 mph the same car will travel a total of 236 feet from the time they recognize an emergency to come to a stop. While the car traveling at 51 mph is only exceeding the speed limit by 28%, it will take that car 75% longer to come to a stop. Shorter stopping distance means fewer and less severe collisions.

While collisions still occur, the presence of photo enforcement often reduces the damage to people and property. Lower speeds also directly equates to less severe collisions. The average mid-sized car weighs about 3,500 lbs. At 40 mph this car in motion represents over 253,000 joules of kinetic injury (energy converted to damage during a collision). At 51 mph this same car represents over 412,000 joules of kinetic energy. While the car traveling at 51 mph is still only exceeding the speed limit by 28%, that car will possess 63% more energy to create damage when involved in a collision. Less kinetic energy means less damage to people and property during a collision. Moreover, Paradise Valley is a residential community. As such, our main roads of Lincoln and Tatum run through quiet neighborhoods with driveways connecting to these arterials. Photo enforcement is an important tool for maintaining the quality of life for these residents.

Traffic Safety Program

Paradise Valley was the first police department in the nation to institute a traffic safety program using speed measuring devices coupled with still photography and computers to enforce speed laws. The program utilizes a civilian technician in the semi-marked police vehicle which deploys and a radar device diagonally across the roadway.

Excess Speed Violators
A vehicle entering the radar beam in excess of a preset speed entered into the computer is photographed from the front and rear. Through readinled to the owner. Since the program was instituted in 1987, traffic collisions have been reduced about 45%.

Red Light Violators
The Paradise Valley Police Department also has a photo enforcement system for red light violators. This system has sensors embedded in the roadway that are connected through a computer to the intersection traffic signals. When the red light phase is active, the sensors detect vehicles entering the intersection while the light is red. Photographs are again taken, and the registered owner is cited.

During red, amber, and green cycles, the same sensors measure the speed of vehicles entering the intersection, and citations for excessive speed are also issued. As with the photo radar vehicle, only the actual driver of the vehicle is required to face the charge in court.

Photo Enforcement Program Data
On September 16, 2010, the Police Chief and Municipal Court Director presented information in a public meeting detailing the photo enforcement program. The presentation (PDF) included an equipment inventory, usage locations, number of citations issued, and fee distributions. View the presentation (PDF).

The Town's photo enforcement program was also discussed on KAET's Horizon on September 9, 2010. (External link to kaet.asu.edu)

Citation Options
For more information on paying a photo enforcement citation, attending traffic school, or requesting a hearing please see the municipal court website.