Efforts to place limits on red-light camera use die in Missouri

| 6/18/2007

Two bills died in the Missouri Senate that sought to put restrictions on the use of automated cameras by cities to ticket drivers. Both bills remained in committee at the end of the session, effectively killing them for the year.

The cameras in use in three Missouri towns snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders. A ticket is mailed to the owners of the vehicles, regardless who was driving at the time.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, offered one bill that would have prohibited the cameras from capturing images of the faces of the drivers. It also would have limited fines and court costs to $100.

A separate provision in the bill – SB192 – set limitations on city agreements with camera vendors. Vendors wouldn’t have been allowed to charge cities based on the number of tickets mailed, issued or paid, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

The measure also would have required cities using the technology to annually report information to the state, including the number of citations and total revenue collected.

Another provision would have prohibited use of photo radar to enforce speeding violations.

The other failed effort – SB280 – would have set enforcement standards for red-light violations.

Sponsored by Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, the bill would have prohibited violations from being considered moving violations. Offenses wouldn’t count against driving records or insurance rates.

If legislation had been approved a handful of communities would have been affected. Cameras already are in place in Arnold, Florissant and St. Peters with the cities of Columbia and Springfield preparing their own programs.

Supporters say the equipment acts as a deterrent and helps snare red-light-running drivers who otherwise might not get caught. But others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

In fact, a study paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation showed rear-end crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras, as motorists stopped abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor