Texas Senate approves red light camera bills, with restrictions

| 4/25/2007

Two bills on the move in the Texas Legislature would continue to allow cities to post cameras at intersections to nab those who run red lights. However, restrictions would be put in place to prevent abuse by local governments.

The cameras, which snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders’ vehicle tags, have been authorized in more than 20 cities throughout the state since 2003. Tickets are mailed to vehicle owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said that while there is strong sentiment to do away with the use of red-light cameras, lawmakers are better off working to make sure they are less lucrative for local coffers, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The Senate approved a bill that would cap fines for running red lights and require cities to share fines generated by the cameras with the state. The bill – SB125 – would cap the statewide maximum fine at $75. Revenue from the fines would first pay for the costs associated with the cameras – about 40 percent of the money. The remaining funds would be split between the state and cities.

Cities would be required to use their share of the profits for public safety and traffic needs. The state would route its proceeds to the state fund to support trauma care and emergency medical services.

Carona said the change to state law is needed because some cities are levying fines of $150 or more for motorists caught running red lights.

“What we’ve tried to do through this legislation is curb the use of these cameras for financial reasons,” Carona told lawmakers. “They need to be centered around public safety.”

The second bill – SB1119 – to receive Senate approval would establish criteria for where red-light cameras can be posted. Cities would be required to do traffic studies at intersections they want to use cameras.

It also would set limitations on city agreements with camera vendors. Vendors couldn’t charge cities based on the number of citations issued.

Both bills have passed out of committee in the House. The next stop is the House floor.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor