Lawmakers slap down Ridgeland's plan to ticket I-95 drivers by camera; OK wider range for golf carts

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Lawmakers slap down Ridgeland's plan to ticket I-95 drivers by camera; OK wider range for golf carts

By JOSH DAWSEY jdawsey@islandpacket.com 843-706-8141
Published Thursday, May 27, 2010   |  570 Words  |  news

Ridgeland's attempt to become South Carolina's first town to enforce speeding with traffic cameras was batted down Wednesday after it was stripped from a transportation bill passed this week by the S.C. House of Representatives.
But some golf cart owners who want to range a little further from...Ridgeland's attempt to become South Carolina's first town to enforce speeding with traffic cameras was batted down Wednesday by an amendment to a state transportation bill that would outlaw the town of Ridgeland’s plan to enforce speeding laws with traffic cameras.
But some golf cart owners who want to range a little further from home on public roads picked up a victory in the same measure.The town of Ridgeland planned to install traffic cameras on I-95 inside town limits in July with the help of a private contractor, said town administrator Jason Taylor.
However, Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said South Carolinians are wary of speed traps. He said he also is worried the cameras would grind traffic on the interstate to a halt, especially during the summer months when tourists flock to the road.He added language to the bill that would allow speed or traffic cameras only in emergencies, require the person being ticketed to be served in person and earmark revenue from such tickets for the state's general fund.
The interstate parallels the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida, passes through several major metropolitan areas and is heavily used by tourists.
Rutherford said the use of cameras to enforce laws by taking a photo of those clocked by an unmanned radar raises legal questions, including: How will tickets be paid? Would other towns subsequently install traffic cameras and become speed traps? What if the driver isn't the car owner?
"If we're going to do this, they need to be studied a lot more on the state level," he said. "The transportation committee hasn't had a chance to study these at all."
Enforcing traffic laws on the strip of I-95 that cuts through Ridgeland is expensive, Taylor said.
"We weren't doing this to make money or become a speed trap," Taylor said, noting the cameras would only ticket speeders going 85 mph or faster. That's 15 miles above the post speed limit of 70 mph. "When the economy is like it is now, you have to look at different alternatives to enforcing laws without hiring new officers."
In an unrelated amendment to the bill offered by Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, golf cart users could drive on public roads two miles beyond a housing development's gates. Current law allows golf cart drivers to venture only two miles from their residence. The amendment, geared toward Sun City Hilton Head residents, has been in the works for more than a year, Herbkersman said. Because Sun City sprawls over several miles, residents cannot legally drive from one end of the neighborhood to another.
"It enhances mobile opportunities for our elderly and promotes alternative transportation," Herbkersman said. "It also allows our good folks on Daufuskie Island to be able to travel the entire island on the golf carts."
The amendments were made to S.C. 1298, a bill passed by the S.C. Senate concerning emergency safety regulations on state highways. The amendments likely will pass the Senate and head to Gov. Mark Sanford's desk before the legislative session ends in June, Rutherford said.