Tennessee Senate OKs traffic camera restrictions

| 4/30/2008

Two bills halfway through the Tennessee statehouse would put restrictions on cities’ use of traffic cameras to nab red-light runners.

More than 10 cities throughout the state use the enforcement tool. The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ or speeders’ vehicles and license plates. A ticket is mailed to the owners of the vehicles, regardless of who was driving at the time.

The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would require motorists to be notified of $67.50 citations by mail. Failure to pay fines within 30 days would result in a second notification being sent via mail. Only then could violators be assessed late fees.

Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said the new rules are needed to ensure that drivers who receive tickets are given ample notice. He cited existing rules that give vehicle owners 30 days in most localities to pay up before facing additional fees – sometimes more than double the ticket amount.

The measure – SB3258 – also would require law enforcement officials to view video evidence to ensure that violations had occurred. In addition, vehicle owners would be allowed to file affidavits saying someone else was behind the wheel at the time of violation.

Another Senate-approved bill – SB3423 – includes a provision to prohibit shortening of yellow signals for the purpose of increasing profits from tickets.

“This is an effort to ensure that this system of camera-generated ticketing is done for safety, and not abused for the benefit of local treasuries,” Burchett said in a written statement.

The bills are awaiting assignment to committee in the House.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Tennessee in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor