The city of Albuquerque has been sending out warnings for almost a month to drivers clocked over the posted speed limit on east- and westbound Gibson at Carlisle and on eastbound Montgomery between Wyoming and Eubank.
A whole lot of warnings.
The Albuquerque Police Department announced Friday the cameras have issued more than 2,000 warnings to drivers who blew past the cameras between April 25 and May 19.
But that doesn’t mean just 2,000 drivers were caught speeding.
In fact, APD says of the 917,036 total vehicles that went through the three enforcement areas, which all have posted 40 mph speed limits:
• 756,013, 82%, were going 1 mph or more over the posted limit,
• 187,849, 21%, were going 11 mph or more over the posted limit, and
• 32 were going 60 mph or more over the posted limit – meaning 100 mph or faster.
APD reviewed and sent 2,192 warnings to registered vehicle owners, the most egregious violators (the 100 mph or more crowd) as well as a random sample.
Starting Wednesday, the Automated Speed Enforcement system will issue citations, as well as warnings for lower-level speeders.
APD officials emphasize the cameras are a force multiplier, meaning officers are freed up to do traffic enforcement in other areas as well as focus on violent crime. In the same one-month period, APD says officers wrote 3,590 traffic citations, including 876 for speeding and 17 for racing.
Where are they?
The city is planning three additional cameras in addition to the two on Gibson and one on Montgomery. Lead, Coal and Unser are up next, though a city spokesman says the exact locations have not been determined. A total of seven fixed (like Gibson) and three mobile (like Montgomery) units are planned; placement is based on traffic and crash data and community input.
Who do they take pictures of?
Only speeding vehicles – not any other vehicles. The city website, cabq.gov, has a frequently-asked-questions page that says “the units do not capture information of images of passing vehicles that are not exceeding the enforcement speed.”
Does the ticket hit my insurance or driver’s license?
No. It is a civil fine.
How much are the fines?
$100, payable by check, money order or credit card. Online and telephone payments incur a $6.95 fee, according to the sample citation on the website.
What if I can’t pay?
You can do four hours of community service instead.
What if I ignore my citation?
The city will enforce debt collections. While automated speed enforcement tickets do not go on your credit report, they will go to collections.
What if I wasn’t driving?
Citations are mailed to a vehicle’s registered owner based on Motor Vehicle Division, APD and Metropolitan Court records. According to the city website, “if another driver is operating a vehicle that is registered to you and is found to have a violation, you can identify the responsible individual with an owner’s affidavit. Note that if that individual defaults on their fine, you will be responsible for it.”
Where does the money go?
Half goes to the state, the rest to cover the cost of the program and then to traffic safety initiatives.
Does the vendor make more money the more tickets are issued?
No, the contract is structured on a flat-fee, not per-citation, basis.
Can a plate cover or spray obscure my license plate?
Not likely. The city says new industrial flash technology means the cameras work even if the lenses are spray-painted over, and most of the license-plate sprays actually enhance the image of a reflective surface, making the citation image really pop. Plus, using many of those products is illegal in itself.
Can the cameras be disabled?
Not easily. The fixed cameras are mounted high on poles, the mobile units weigh 800 pounds. All are encased in heavy steel with a lens protected by bullet-resistant glass.
How do I fight a ticket?
You set up a hearing with the City Clerk’s Office (instruction will be on the citation). Hearing officers are appointed by the presiding judge of the civil division of the District Court and hearings adhere to the Independent Office of Hearing Ordinance.
Since the program was announced the Journal has received feedback from some readers who hate the idea of a camera rather than a cop citing them and are already formulating how to fight their citations.
Here’s an idea: Slow down instead. In the first four months of this year, 36 people have died on the roads in Bernalillo County alone, up from 28 in the same period last year, according to N.M. Department of Transportation and University of New Mexico data. Lt. Nick Wheeler of APD’s Motors Unit says “the numbers show that more than ever, we need this force multiplier to crack down on speeding on our streets. We need a change in behavior, and we’re using Automated Speed Enforcement combined with our ongoing strategic traffic operations to get us there.”
Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area. Reach her at 823-3858; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.