Massachusetts bill dies; sought to OK statewide use of red-light cameras

| 8/6/2008

The Massachusetts General Court wrapped up its regular legislative session Thursday, July 31, without approving a bill that sought to set statewide standards for red-light cameras.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time. Some cities and towns in the state have enacted ordinances. Others continued to study the issue while they waited to see what the Legislature would do.

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Honan, D-Brighton, the bill remained in a House committee when the session ended. The measure – H3512 – would have allowed communities to contract with companies to install and maintain cameras. It called for the cameras to capture an image of a vehicle’s license plate and another that shows its progression through the intersection.

Violators would have faced $25 fines. Insurance companies would not have been notified.

Municipalities would have paid camera companies a flat monthly fee based on the value of the equipment and the services provided. Paying companies a percentage of fines would have been prohibited.

Advocates said the bill was about safety and using technology in a helpful way. Others said authorizing the use of cameras frees up police to address bigger issues.

Opponents, including trucking industry officials, question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents. In fact, multiple studies have found that crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor