PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill Thursday to loosen the ticketing rules for the school-zone speed cameras in Providence, after the city drew criticism for the rollout of the cameras in January.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare testified about the bill, which was introduced by Providence Senator Ana Quezada, a Democrat. The bill would require the use of yellow, flashing school-zone speed signs near the speed cameras. It would also phase-in the punishment, starting with a written citation for first offenses, a fine of up to $45 for second offenses and a referral to the Traffic Tribunal for all subsequent offenses.
“This is not to take the cameras away,” Quezada said. “We understand we had an issue, we see it. We’ve had so many tickets already. But it’s just to let people know where these cameras are, to put more signs.”
Pare testified before the House Judiciary Committee on April 3, saying the city is willing to consider making changes to the program. He said during his testimony that implementing a gradual penalty system is not impossible, but would be a challenge. He reiterated the testimony Thursday night in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“To go to a tiered system right now would probably just shut the system down, because we’d have to do it manually. And it would be overwhelming,” Pare said.
Providence has come under from state lawmakers for issuing more than 12,000 $95 speeding tickets during the first 33 days of its speed camera program, which launched in January. A Municipal Court judge ended up dismissing dozens of violations because of errors on the printed tickets.
Rhode Island lawmakers first approved speed cameras in 2016 when they passed the Automated School-Zone-Speed-Enforcement System Act permitting municipalities to install them within a quarter-mile of any type of school. Providence is the only city has installed the cameras, although Mayor Jorge Elorza has predicted that they will eventually be used across the state.
Dan McGowan contributed to this report.