Red-light camera restrictions OK’d in Texas

| 6/25/2007

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed a series of bills into law that put restrictions on red light cameras in the state.

One new law – SB1119 – could force cities in Texas that have posted cameras in intersections to take them down. The cameras, which snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders’ vehicle tags, have been in use in more than 20 cities throughout the state since 2003. Tickets are mailed to vehicle owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

The new law gives cities two years to prove the devices make roads safer. Participating cities are required to report to the Legislature information about wrecks at intersections where the devices are installed. During the 2009 legislative session, the House and Senate will evaluate the reports and vote whether to allow cities to keep the cameras.

The new law also establishes criteria for where red-light cameras can be posted. Cities are required to do traffic studies at intersections they want to use cameras to determine whether design changes could reduce the number of red-light violations.

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

In addition, credit agencies cannot be used to make people pay citations. Instead, the Texas Department of Transportation “may refuse to register a motor vehicle alleged to have been involved in the violation.” Out-of-state vehicles could not be forced to pay.

A separate new law, previously HB1623, caps tickets at $75. Cities are required to send half of their ticket profits to the state for area trauma facilities. Cities must use the rest of their profits on traffic safety programs.

Another new law, HB1052, requires cities to post warning signs at least 100 feet from monitored intersections.

One other new law, HB922, prohibits cities from using the cameras to enforce speed limits.

The provisions included in SB1119, HB1052 and HB1623 become effective Sept. 1. HB922 took effect immediately.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor