Oregon governor OKs bills targeting red-light runners, drunken drivers

| 7/5/2007

Two bills intended to make roadways in Oregon a little safer have been signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. One new law allows a lot more automated cameras to be posted throughout the state while the other is aimed at drunken drivers.

The red-light camera bill – HB2508 – lifts current restrictions in state law allowing only cities with populations greater than 30,000, and Newberg in Yamhill County, to install and operate the cameras. Currently, Portland is limited to 12 photo-enforced intersections and Beaverton, Newberg and Medford are limited to eight.

The new law allows cities of all sizes to put up as many cameras as they want.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

Supporters say the equipment encourages compliance with the law and saves lives by reducing collisions. Opponents challenge the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They say the motivation of those involved is economics.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

Another new law, previously HB2774, requires first-time offenders of the state’s driving under the influence of intoxicants law to use breath-testing ignition interlocks on their vehicles. Offenders will be required to use the devices for at least one year.

Supporters say the interlock devices are an effective alternative to fines and penalties that don’t do enough to change offenders’ behavior.

Oregon law already requires DUI offenders to use the devices for their first six months back behind the wheel.

Both bills signed into law take effect Jan. 1, 2008.