Hamilton may increase photo enforcement of speeding

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Officer Michael Coleman demonstrates the new Hamilton Police department hand held laser speed measuring device

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Two days in the same week recently, Hamilton’s speed enforcement vehicle cited the same student rushing to school on the Ohio 4 Bypass, Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said. One morning the student was driving 74 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone. Earlier that week, the student was clocked at 82 mph.

“There were two violations within a week” during the morning rush, Bucheit said .

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“I can tell you: The parent, when they were notified of this, was very appreciative, and thankful,” Bucheit said, “because think of a young person — a son or a daughter — and not knowing that they’re driving like that on their way to school, and what a risk that is to your child and everyone else who’s on the road with your child.”

Hamilton City Council is considering legislation that would expand the program beyond the existing speed vehicle and would give police officers additional tools — hand-held laser devices that measure a vehicle’s speed and license-plate number while also making a video recording of the vehicle during the time it is being measured. The matter likely will receive a council vote next week.

Under the proposed updated agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., the city will receive between two and six hand-held devices.

Hamilton police department traffic officer Michael Coleman demonstrates one of their new Laser Technologies LTI20/20 Trucam hand held laser speed measuring devices, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. The new devices can record video and still photographs. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Hamilton police department traffic officer Michael Coleman demonstrates one of their new Laser Technologies LTI20/20 Trucam hand held laser speed measuring devices, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. The new devices can record video and still photographs. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

“What’s going to be new to the program is a hand-held device,” Bucheit said. “That’s a component that we haven’t had in the past. It will allow officers to use virtually the same tool. They can use the photo-enforcement mode, but if there were an egregious violation or something that they needed to take immediate enforcement action, it’ll allow them to do that as well.”

The same week the student was cited twice on Bypass 4, “within a week’s time, they were out there for three hours,” Bucheit said. “In those three hours, they checked 3,325 cars, cited 34, and every one of those cars that were cited was going at least 65 in the 50, including this young person.”

“If you look at those numbers, we’re only citing 1 percent of the vehicles,” he said.

But the program is highly efficient: During those three hours, the program checked more than 90 vehicles per five minutes, citing about one — many times more than would have been possible without the video equipment and the necessity of stopping and personally handing a citation to every violating driver, he noted. It also poses less danger to officers and motorists that aren’t being pulled over onto the highway’s shoulders, where other vehicles can strike them, he said.

Bucheit noted the city reserves the right to ticket drivers for speeding less than 15 mph over the limit.

If a police officer were using one of the hand-held device in fully equipped police cruiser, the officer very well might have chased down the speeding student, and rather than receiving a civil violation with a $95 penalty. In that case, the young driver might have faced a criminal ticket for speeding, which would have brought points on the driver’s license, as well as a charge of reckless driving, Bucheit said.

Hamilton resident Dan Spence said he had mixed feelings about the photo speed enforcement program, but said if it can slow down the very fast drivers — such as someone who would drive 24 or 32 miles above the speed limit — he considers it a good thing.

“That’s pretty fast for a 50 (mph zone) Spence said. “Students, they don’t have skills yet. 24 (miles per hour over the limit), that’s a lot. Rush hour, that’s not good. You need to get up earlier to get there.”

Unlike programs operated by other local governments, Hamilton’s has not run afoul of the law. In fact, city leaders say, state lawmakers used the city’s program as a model for state legislation.

“I think the way we’ve utilized this program here, in our community, speaks for itself,” Bucheit said. “It’s designed to do one thing, and that’s to slow people down and keep our roads safe.”

Also, speed is a leading contributor of crashes and injuries, he said.

“Speeding is by far the most common and persistent complaint that I get, in terms of neighborhood issues” he added. It has been a big topic recently in Lindenwald because of a pedestrian fatality there, he noted.

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“If you look at our revenue, we have averaged less than $100,000 revenue the past three years,” Bucheit said. “So as far as I’m concerned, this is not an issue of revenue. This is an issue of utilizing technology and tools that are available to us to slow folks down, and keep our roads safe.”

Here’s how the hand-held device will work: An officer using the device will measure a vehicle’s speed using the laser, and when a vehicle is moving faster than a threshold speed the device is set for, the device takes a photo of the license plate and a video, just like the mobile unit has done since 2010.

A citation then is sent through the mail, just as has been done with the existing speed-vehicle program. Vehicle owners receive a letter with a photo of the vehicle that tells them how to access, via the internet, a video showing their vehicle and its speed. Under the program, the company will receive $37.50 per citation that’s paid from the mobile speed van, and $32.25 per paid citation from a hand-held device. Those fees will increase if Hamilton increases its citation amounts.

“We’ve had photo enforcement here since April of 2010,” Bucheit said.

The city also has devices that measure how fast vehicles are going, even when the photo-enforcement devices aren’t in use. Then there are the more obvious signs that flash speeds that motorists are drivings, among other tools police are using.