Rhode Island House votes to remove sunset clause on red-light cameras

| 6/2/2008

The Rhode Island House has approved a bill that ensures red light cameras in the state will be around longer. It now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

State law already allows cities to install red light cameras. Approved as a pilot program, the automated cameras used to ticket drivers who run red lights is slated to end this July.

Sponsored by Rep. John McCauley, D-Providence, the bill would remove the sunset clause on the enforcement tool.

The cameras, which are used solely in Providence, snap pictures of red-light runners’ or speeders’ vehicles. Ticket are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Supporters of the equipment say it acts as a deterrent and helps snare red-light-running drivers who otherwise might not get caught. Critics 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.

Others question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. They say the motivation to use the technology is economics.

The bill – H7195 – has moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor