South Carolina: AAA Endorses Illegal Speed Trap

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
south carolina aaa endorses illegal speed trap

A century ago, the forerunners of the American Automobile Association (AAA) provided a service that warned motorists about upcoming speed traps. AAA Carolinas turned away from this history and used its considerable influence on Monday to support a speed trap declared illegal by South Carolina’s attorney general and several of its lawmakers. Since August, the tiny town of Ridgeland has allowed a private company to operate a speed camera on Interstate 95 in direct defiance of a state law enacted in June specifically to stop the program ( view law).

“All branches of government are facing constricting budgets,” a AAA Carolinas statement explained. “Law enforcement agencies will not be able to simply add staff to handle the growing traffic volume and therefore must look to creative solutions to do more with less. This photo-radar enforcement program in the Town of Ridgeland is one such example and should be replicated as opposed to rejected.”

AAA insisted Ridgeland was not a speed trap because the profit for the city was not significant for the town of 2500. A total of 8000 tickets have been mailed since August, with Ridgeland’s cut worth about $196,000. The private contractor iTraffic will pocket the same amount while the state retains the largest share. AAA based its arguments on material provided by town Mayor Gary W. Hodges who has been furiously lobbying against the legislative assault brewing in Columbia.

Hodges testified on January 26 before a state Senate Transportation subcommittee that his system did not run afoul of the law that targeted Ridgeland. He pointed out a provision that stated traffic tickets could not be “solely” based on photographic evidence.

“The primary evidence in every citation is officer observation supported by radar technology and photographic evidence,” Hodges said. “There is an officer observing every violation, if the machine clocks a violation when he is not looking, he deletes it. That is his instruction. If he needs to get up and go to the restroom, he puts the system on pause.”

Subcommittee members were not convinced, as the mayor himself described a system that operates on autopilot. One state senator sarcastically pointed out that the police officer, whose salary is covered by iTraffic, must have been “real observant” when he failed to notice one of the speed cameras was rammed by a motorist.

“We can’t put issuing any kind of tickets on autopilot,” state Senator George E. Campsen (R-Charleston) said. “There’s got to be an ability for people to give a defense.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Grooms grilled Hodges to determine what authority Hodges claimed to operate the program. After Hodges implied that the attorney general had backed away from the decisions that found the program in violation of the law, Grooms zeroed in and asked Hodges directly whether he had any legal opinion or notes from his meetings with the attorney general that suggested what he was doing was legal.

“No sir, not from the attorney general, no sir,” Hodges admitted.

The full South Carolina Senate is poised to consider a bill that Grooms introduced, S. 336, that bans the use of tickets based “in whole or in part” on photographic evidence whether or not the device is attended or unattended. The committee struck a provision that would have imposed a $500 penalty for each ticket the system had issued without legal authority.

AAA now derives a significant portion of its revenue from automobile insurance, an amount that increases for each photo enforcement ticket issued in states like California and Arizona where license points apply to photo tickets.


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  • Kendahl Kendahl on Feb 09, 2011

    Once upon a time, AAA sanctioned automobile races for the FIA. Now, they are just a travel agency and insurance company. We gave up on them more than 30 years ago. We have towing riders for all of our cars. I have had to use them several times. No complaints from our insurance company.

  • Zas Zas on Feb 10, 2011

    When AAA decided to get into the insurance game, it became all about profitability and posting income increases for the company, away from it's core business of HELPING people out. When you have actuaries are running the company, always pushing for the next squeeze of the dime, a company like AAA becomes just like any other greedy insurance company: it's about SAVING money, not spending it. I honestly believe that the 2 hr wait times that most AAA members encounter are done so that the member just gives up and goes somewhere else to get PAID help, instead of the free one that AAA offers for it's members. As for the poster who said they were cut from AAA's program from using it too much, I would have asked for a refund for the yearly membership citing that you felt baited and switched for paying for the membership if that was the case, or gotten at least a pro-rated return for the time that was left in the membership period. That's just not right to make people feel like they have a sense of security when it's obviously NOT that secure. I used to be in AAA too, won't go back to them ever again, and I wish they would stop sending me the "come back to us" mailings, they are just really annoying!

  • Tassos those 90s pathetic orange pixels are inexcusably lame in a 2010.The interior is filled with Grey Rubbermaid plastic and the tiny sliver of real or fake wood is an utterly pathetic attempt to pretend it's upscale (don't even THINK of "Luxury")Merc SLs with similar metal retractable roofs look so much better inside and out.Regardless of what you paid for this way undepowered near-luxury pretend-sports car, you would have done so much better with a PORSCHE BOXSTER...
  • Dukeisduke That's a cool picture (the one under the bridge) - where was it taken? Google Image Search doesn't turn up any matches.
  • Dukeisduke Okay, yeah, they should fix this, but, "URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE"? I think we're reaching Peak Idiocracy.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is a great review, and very accurate from my perspective as the owner of a closely related, but longer and taller, E93 335i convertible. So much in this review is familiar. Here are the things that are a bit different about the 335i:[list][*]My car is a manual. Shifter action is good, with positive engagement, although a bit more play and rubbery feeling in the shifter than you would get with, say, a six-speed Honda. The clutch is a bit disappointing. It has a "clutch dampening valve" intended to protect against the most abusive clutch dumps. The valve throws my timing off a bit and I have had a hard time learning to drive this car with perfect smoothness, especially in the 1-2 shift. I may remove the valve at some point.[/*][*]My car has the turbo (in single-turbo N55 form). On the plus side, you get what feels like significantly more power than the rated 300 hp once on the boost, and even in fully stock form you get entertaining whooshing noises from the blowoff valve. On the minus side, there is some turbo lag, more than you get in many modern turbo cars, and fuel economy is, well, not close to what Corey is getting. The turbo car also comes with an active exhaust system that is extremely quiet when puttering while making some nice inline-six noise at wide-open throttle.[/*][*]There are back seats! I have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old. The six-year-old fits perfectly. The nine-year-old still fits, but that will likely change within the next three years. These seats are not usable for adults unless the front-seat occupants squeeze forward more than normal. E92 coupes are slightly roomier in back, and E90 sedans are substantially roomier.[/*][*]My car has the M Sport suspension, which does not have variable dampers. It's firm enough that I have to be careful to avoid even small holes on city streets if I don't want to get jarred. But if you can avoid the holes it feels good, navigating expansion joints and such without uncomfortable impact, while maintaining impressive body control for a porky 3900-pound convertible.[/*][*]My car has iDrive and a screen, as well as parking sensors. But it does not have a backup camera. Graphics on the screen are pretty good by 2011 standards, which is to say not acceptable by modern standards, but the system is easy enough to navigate and works pretty well. I prefer the rotary controller to a touch screen for fingerprint reasons.[/*][*]The parking sensors are by far the best of any car I've ever owned, and they are so accurate I really don't need a camera. The sensors go to a solid beep when the appropriate end is about 4" from an object, and I can comfortably cover about half that distance with no fear of bumping. They also project legimately useful graphics on the iDrive screen showing where the object is. I park in tight city settings enough that I really appreciate the accuracy. Also in the city parking mold, my car has power folding mirrors, which I wish every car would.[/*][*]Like you, I have the mid-level "Hi-Fi Professional" stereo setup, but in the four-seat convertible there is not a dedicated subwoofer. Bass is a bit on the weak side. Sound quality is about comparable with the JBL system in my Toyota Highlander, which is to say it's good enough for listening in the car but is not going to impress anyone.[/*][*]There are small leaks from the joints between the top and the A-pillars in my car. They won't soak the interior, but they will result in a few drops of water on the front seats after a hard rain. I'm still experimenting to see if regular applications of rubber protectant can restore the seals enough to eliminate the leaks. There are no leaks from any other part of the top mechanism.[/*][*]I've only owned the car for about eight months and 1500 miles, but so far nothing has broken and every feature on the car works correctly. A purchase-time inspection found only an incorrectly secured fan shroud and no other problems, and there is a mostly complete service history, so this was a well-maintained car to start with.[/*][/list]
  • Lou_BC This offer reminds me of those plans where you get something free but if you fail to cancel prior to the expiry of the "Free" plan you end up on the hook for a lengthy contract. Tesla wants to attract people to their electrical company. It's smart. Make money selling the car, make money with subscription services on the car, and make money selling the fuel to power the car at home and at charging stations.