By on August 25, 2010

The mayor of Ridgeland, South Carolina is taking a stand in defiance of a state law that bans the use of speed cameras anywhere in the state (view law). Mayor Gary W. Hodges earlier this month began issuing speeding tickets based on evidence provided by an automated traffic system set up in a recreational vehicle parked on Interstate 95 despite warnings from lawmakers.

“The program is up and running,” Hodges announced at an August 12 meeting. “There are those at various levels who think this is a bad thing — I for the life of me can’t figure out why people have a problem with this.”

The automated speeding ticket issuance system is run by a for-profit company called iTraffic which was established by the founder of Nestor Traffic Systems, which went bankrupt last year. The company is hoping to use Ridgeland as a base to expand throughout the state. Both Hodges and iTraffic hope Ridgeland becomes the start of a trend.

“Once this system is up and running over the long term and it’s picked up by other municipalities and counties across the state — and there are four major ones that are looking at it right now, they just didn’t want to get caught up in this publicity vacuum — once it becomes a common thing as in Florida where they’ve had signs [that say] ‘airplanes enforcing speeds’ for years,” Hodges said.

Hodges defended the iTraffic program against a number of complaints he has heard, including that the system is nothing more than a modern-day speed trap nabbing travelers making their way on a key north-south interstate route.

“It’s a large van — it’s not a police car behind a tree or anything like that,” Hodges said. “It’s very obvious. It’s clearly out in the open.”

Residents, however, report the vehicle frequently parks below overpasses, and there are no warning signs placed in advance of the vehicle. Hodges lashed out at the state lawmakers, especially state Senator Larry Grooms and Representative J. Todd Rutherford who championed the law banning photo enforcement.

“We have a couple legislators, they’re from other jurisdictions — one’s from Charleston, one from Columbia — they’re still meddling in our local issue down here,” Hodges said. “They still do not know the facts.”

Both lawmakers had written to state Attorney General Henry McMaster about the speed camera program. Hodges first learned that McMaster’s office determined that Ridgeland’s program was illegal from reading about the issue on TheNewspaper (view story). He then attacked the ability of McMaster and his office to issue a proper legal finding.

“There’s two recent attorney general opinions about this — one late June, one early July — we did not know this until yesterday,” Hodges said. “I got it off this website that there were two fresh attorney general opinions dealing strictly with this issue in the town of Ridgeland… I thought it was pitiful that we got these off the Internet…. We’ve looked at them. They don’t apply… It has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. It’s just inadequate information based on an inadequate question asked.”

Hodges vowed to press forward with his ticketing despite state pressure to terminate the program.

“Why not use technology to save some lives, and to help pay the bills of the town,” Hodges said.

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24 Comments on “South Carolina: Renegade Mayor Issues Illegal Photo Tickets...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    in Florida where they’ve had signs [that say] ‘airplanes enforcing speeds’ for years,”

    In my 15+ years living there, and numerous years traveling there, I have never once seen or heard of an aircraft issuing tickets to anyone, despite all the signage.

    However, I have seen helicopters in Virginia doing it. But since my radar detector is illegal there, I wasn’t speeding ;)

    • 0 avatar
      WetWilly

      They definitely used airplanes in Florida. My mother got ticketed on the Florida Turnpike back before the days of radar guns. She went around a curve and the FHP officer already had his lights on and pulled her over. She asked him how he knew how fast she’d been going and he said the plane had clocked her. There were lines pained across the roadway a set distance apart and the guys in the airplanes determined your speed using a stopwatch to time how long it took the car to cross two of the lines.

    • 0 avatar
      moedaman

      I received a speeding ticket in Florida on I-75 just out of Georgia in the early 1980’s due to planes. And they did have warning signs. It was set-up just like WetWilly described.

  • avatar

    Politicians are like diapers – they should be changed often, and for the same reason.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    The mayor should have a warrant issued against him by the State AG. He should be arrested and tried. Then let’s see who wants to follow in his footsteps.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I wonder what this mayor has been promised and/or given by these iTraffic crooks?

  • avatar
    CMK

    “Why not use technology to save some lives, and to help pay the bills of the town,” Hodges said.

    He got the order of those two mixed up. But then again, “save some lives” is always a blatant lie anyway.

    “Why not use technology to wring even more money out of the taxpayer since we aren’t getting enough to pay for my new Mercedes,” Hodges said.

    FIFY

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Does anyone else get a sense of high irony of the worst kind in realizing that this mayer is BREAKING THE LAW in an effort to ticket law breakers?

    At what point do the people in his area (and for that matter, on a larger scale, the entire population of the United States) stop to realize that the powers-that-be / politicians / handlers are all criminals? Sociopaths, in fact.

    We need to fire them all and start fresh.

  • avatar
    thebeelzebubtrigger

    Well, since the issued tickets are illegal it won’t do him any good. Getting the judge to throw it out should be a piece of cake.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    We’ve come a long way from ol’ Roscoe P. Coltrane and his dog Flash waiting to pounce on unsuspecting citizens going a little over the limit.

    …or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You’re right, and I don’t consider that a “southern stereotype” but a law enforcement stereotype. During my teens in Ohio I was pulled over by a local cop whose drawl would have made a Texan proud. One of my colleagues who is now a shop teacher was once a police officer, born and raised in MI, guess how he talks? Does that way of talking come with the badge?

  • avatar
    George B

    Bet the mayor would have much less interest in issuing speeding tickets on I-95, automated or manual, if the city didn’t get to keep the fines collected. Way past time to separate law enforcement from tax collection.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I-95 is a Federal Interstate, built with anywhere from 80% to 95% of federal gas tax money. The federal government gives the state that built it the sole responsibility for maintenance and enforcement. No city through which the interstate passes has jurisdiction, and any city that tries is breaking not only state, but federal law.

    Of course, the tickets are illegal and can be ignored, but even valid tickets are being ignored. Didn’t TTAC cite a city that eliminated camera tickets because not enough people were voluntarily paying tickets to pay for the system, and involuntary enforcement wasn’t cost effective?

    I no longer get angry about these arrogant officials. They don’t realize how close they’re getting to a future in which people simply ignore laws and regulations they don’t like. Smarter politicians than the Mayor of Ridgeland will understand that withdrawal of consent to be governed is the beginning of revolution, and will avoid it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      Is this true? Been a few years….but I know Allen Park police often sit in the medians on I94 between Detroit and Metro Airport and pull people over…..are you saying that such fines are not valid?

      If I think about it, I don’t know of anywhere else where I have seen anything but a state trooper enforcing.

      Be nice to find out that the city was breaking the law. I think I have a relative or two who might enjoy getting some money back if this is indeed the case…

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Unless an actual uniformed officer knocks on your door, the officer positively identifies you and tells you what you’re accused of, orders you to sign the ticket, you sign the ticket (thereby agreeing to pay the ticket or appear in court), and the officer hands you a copy… it’s optional or voluntary to pay.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    Good info to know…..I’ll be heading past Ridgeland in a week on vacation. If I see the RV I might just speed up a little bit….let the mayor spend a little more money by sending me a ticket that will never get paid.

  • avatar
    Repeal_The_Va_Radar_Detector_Ban

    As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of detectors. There is no evidence that the detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.
    *** A small surcharge($5-$10) or tax(2%-3%) could be added to the price of the device to make-up for any possible loss of revenue from reduced number of speeding tickets and the loss of tickets written for radar detectors.***

    Please sign this petition and help to repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

    http://www.stoptheban.org

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/repeal-the-virginia-radar-detector-ban

  • avatar
    phantomwolf

    At which point do we motorists stop being treated like cattle and more like citizens; oh yea, right, when we are amassed outside our politicians houses with torches, pitchforks, and high beams. :)

  • avatar
    Kiwi_Mark_in_Aussie

    “…I for the life of me can’t figure out why people have a problem with this.” – Strange that an American has trouble understanding the concept of democracy and majority rule!

    ““Why not use technology to save some lives, and to help pay the bills of the town,”” – 1. Because there is zero evidence to suggest that it saves lives (despite the repeated attempts at poor analysis by those who support this claptrap) and 2. Again – what part of democracy does this gimp not understand – the people have spoken – they dont wish to be taxed this way.

  • avatar
    bevo

    “We have a couple legislators, they’re from other jurisdictions; they’re still meddling in our local issue down here,” Hodges said.

    I did not realize there was a County’s Right vs. State’s Right issue in South Carolina. This problem exits when twits who don’t know their US constitution and US history become public policy makers.

    How about a test for all those who seek office? Flunk (and less than 90% should be flunking) and you don’t make the ballot

  • avatar
    swlloyd83

    Just got home with my mail. Does anyone know the first step in fighting this ticket I received while traveling through SC on I-95?  It’s dated the 13th of August.  I remember seeing an RV parked under an overpass on the other side of it’s pillars; making the RV very hard to see.  The ticket indicates I was going 81 MPH, the minimum MPH needed for the officer to issue a ticket.  I read up on South Carolina Code Section 56-5-7 as I’m sure others have, and it clearly supports what this article has mentioned.  The Mayor or Ridgeland is disobeying a State law. So do I ignore it?  Should I make a trip back there and contest it in person?  Do I call up the clerk of courts?

    • 0 avatar
      the tortoiseandthehair

      I’d start by contacting this website http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/contact.asp . They originated the story about Ridgeland,and are basically the experts on these types of things.

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