Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges was ousted from office, a year after he publicly supported the installation of speeding cameras on I-95. The policy drew the ire of the state which promptly banned the cameras. South Carolina has a long history of resisting new traffic safety initiatives under the banner of “motorist rights.” The state was one of the last to implement drunk driving laws.
Hodges was mayor for four years. He led the implementation of cameras on 1-95 to catch, as he said, mostly out of town speeders. The cameras were the only ones in effect outside of construction zones along the east coast. The cameras were activated once a car approached speeds of 81 miles per hour. It then took photos of the front and rear of the car in order to send the owner a speeding ticket via mail. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and high-profile safety advocates applauded Hodges’ efforts, the state legislature and the general public grew angry with him.
Last December, Hodges told WISTV 10, “This is all about changing driver behavior through our section of responsibility. It’s working so we’re not trying to put anyone in jail or do anything like that. We’re just trying to get your attention and apparently, what we’re doing is working cause they are certainly slowing down, the accidents are less, the fatalities are zero, what else can we do to show the thing is working..
Before Ridgeland was forced to take the cameras down, officials saw a significant decrease in the number of speeders. They also increased the number of tickets. This led to criticism that the cameras were a money-making measure and not designed for public safety.
Tom Crosby, a AAA Carolinas spokesperson who has previously criticized South Carolina’s traffic safety for laxity, said, “You can’t argue with the results [of speed cameras] and the only reason you would be upset is because you are speeding. All it’s doing is enforcing the law and even then you have to be doing over 80 to get a ticket..
Hodges, at the time, believed the public and the state would eventually buy into the cameras. He did not discuss other states that have started and stopped camera programs after public disapproval. He dismissed South Carolina’s resistance, saying “We went through similar things when breathalyzers came out. We went through similar things when radar guns came out. It’s the same type of mentality..
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