Tennessee lawmakers OK traffic camera restrictions

| 5/13/2008

The Tennessee General Assembly approved two bills that would put restrictions on cities’ use of traffic cameras to nab red-light runners. Both bills now move to Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is expected to sign them.

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 vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

House lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would require motorists to be notified of $67.50 citations by mail. The Senate already approved it.

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.

The other bill – SB3423 – to receive the endorsement of House and Senate lawmakers 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 treasures,” Burchett said in a written statement.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor