Rhode Island removes sunset clause on red-light cameras

| 7/21/2008

A new law in Rhode Island ensures that red light cameras in the state will be around longer. It became law without Gov. Donald Carcieri’s signature.

State law already allows cities to install red-light cameras. Approved as a pilot program, the use of automated cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights was slated to end this month. Previously known as H7195, the new law removes the sunset clause on the enforcement tool.

The cameras, which are used solely in Providence at this time, snap pictures of red-light runners’ or speeders’ vehicles. Tickets 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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor