Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller says he expects many of the thousands of people who have to date defaulted on their $100 automated speed fines to pay up as the citations go through an escalating collections process — and he adds that if they don’t, the city could consider ways to strengthen payment enforcement.
Given that 48% of citations outside of the 90-day payment window have already been sent to collections, and the city got stuck writing off $21 million in unpaid fines from the 2005-2011 incarnation of the speed-camera program, Keller needs to have that Plan B crackdown ready ASAP. And given that hundreds of drivers are still going 100+ mph down 35 and 40 mph streets, he needs to back up the 12 cameras that currently issue civil fines with law enforcement tactical plans that issue the standard criminal citations in these trouble spots.
Because in no world is it safe for anyone on our roads to have someone going 150 mph on Gibson (posted legal speed 40 mph), 131 mph on Montgomery (also posted at 40 mph) or 96 mph on Central (posted legal speed 35 mph ). Yet months into the Automated Speed Enforcement program, they are still.
In fact, that third location is the very same spot a 7-year-old boy who was leaving the River of Lights with his family last year was killed in a hit-and-run by an off-road vehicle on westbound Central around Tingley and New York. Witnesses said the vehicle ran a red light.
It also bears pointing out that in the 26,000 camera citations issued, we unfortunately are not talking about just a few bad actors pegging their speedometers while most go but a few miles per hour over the posted limit. In September alone, hundreds were recorded going more than 40 mph over the posted limit: The over-40-mph-over-the-limit club includes 338 drivers on eastbound Gibson, 160 drivers on westbound Gibson, 237 drivers on northbound Our (two camera locations, posted limit 40 mph) and 61 drivers on westbound Central.
So as Keller says, kudos to those responsible drivers who got the message after a camera citation, paid the fine/did four hours of community service and slowed their roll. Thousands of people “understand that they broke the law and they’re just holding themselves accountable and doing what’s right,” he says, “and I think it’s a good thing.”
It is. But according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation, 104 people were killed in traffic wrecks in Bernalillo County in the first 11 months of this year (109 in all of 2020, 143 in 2021). Speed is too often a factor, one that like drunken driving is completely preventable.
Keller and his administration were right to send a message to Albuquerque drivers by cracking down on speeding, using the camera technology as a force multiplier. And for the thousands of drivers who ignored their citations, enforcing the $100 fine and adding law enforcement presence with criminal citations issued — particularly to those going in excess of 40 mph over the speed limit — should be a public safety priority in the new year.
This editorial first appeared in the . It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.