The Mayfield Village Police Department plans to add human-operated speed cameras on a stretch of Interstate 271 between Wilson Mills Road and Ridgebury Boulevard, with tickets mailed to offenders.
The cameras were approved by village council on first reading Sept. 20 and are expected to be in place at the end of October or early November, Police Chief Paul Matias told the Cleveland Jewish News Oct. 4. Fines for those caught speeding will be $150 for up to 19 mph above the 60 mph limit; $200 for driving 20 to 29 mph above the limit; and $300 for driving 30 mph above the limit or faster.
Matias brought the idea to council in June through a letter, with council first discussing it in July. According to the ordinance, those fined will have 30 days to pay. If payment isn’t made within 30 days, a $20 additional fee will be added. If the ticket isn’t paid in 60 days, another $20 will be added, which will be collected via a civil lawsuit or other appropriate means of collection.
The cameras will be operated during morning and evening rush hour traffic, with normal traffic stops occurring outside of high traffic periods, Matias said.
“At the end of last year, I was looking at the ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) traffic monitor on I-271 North near Highland Road right in the middle of Mayfield Village,” he said. “Looking at the numbers, you see a significant increase of vehicles going faster than 85 mph. In January, I was working to assign officers to try and deal with that morning rush hour. We noticed that with the sheer number of drivers and the speeds, it was becoming very dangerous to have those traffic stops.”
Following a brainstorming session, Matias said he decided he didn’t want to “surrender the freeway to crazy motorists” and began looking at photo enforcement. Mayfield hired Gatso, a Beverly, Mass., company that produces red light, speed and school zone safety cameras. The company will send the tickets by mail and will be paid by sharing 38% of fines received. It will not receive a share of other fines generated by the police department’s traffic enforcement.
Matias said the implementation of the human-operated cameras won’t impact department manpower. Physical cameras won’t be installed. The cameras require an officer to observe a speeding car, point a hand-held laser camera at the car and the camera will take a photo of the license plate and ticket the driver the car is registered to. The human-operated cameras will not be used on weekends or holidays.
“But just because we’re not doing the photo enforcement, it doesn’t mean you can just keep speeding,” he said.
While no one likes camera tickets, Mitch Luxenburg, an attorney at The Law Firm of Mitch Luxenburg in Beachwood, said he isn’t sure there is “empirical data” to support the idea hand-operated or mounted cameras slow down traffic unless there are posted signs warning drivers of speed limit enforcement.
“Having said that, they have been deemed legal in Ohio and there isn’t anything drivers can do about it,” he said in an email. “By manning the camera and radar guns with uniformed officers, municipalities can meet the legally required evidentiary standards.”
Luxenburg added that the tickets are civil fines only, and that the tickets go with the car and not the driver, similar to a parking ticket.
“If you loan your car to someone and they are speeding, you get the ticket not them,” he said. “The only way to avoid this is once you get the ticket, you have to sign an affidavit that it wasn’t you and provide the contact information of who it was. But since it doesn’t go on the driving record of either person, it typically isn’t worth fighting. For drivers that wish to fight the ticket, it isn’t cost-effective to hire an attorney,” Luxenburg said.
As for Mayfield’s stake in the new ordinance, Matias stressed it is not a cash grab.
“If it was, I would use it every single weekend and every moment of the day,” he said. “It is only during rush hour. The goal is to try and reduce speeds. And if these drivers know we’re running photo enforcement, it’ll put it in their minds to slow down. If you’re already driving safely and within the legal limits, you don’t have anything to worry about.”