SPECIAL REPORT: States seek to change ticket camera rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/19/2012

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 – As lawmakers head to work at state capitols throughout the country ,the use of automated cameras to ticket drivers for speeding or running red lights is once again expected to be a much-debated topic.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of automated enforcement. Conversely, 10 states have acted to prohibit use of the enforcement tool.

In Connecticut, the use of red-light cameras is getting a major push from some of the state’s leading lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, is expected to offer a bill to allow cities with 60,000 or more people to use ticket cameras.

Fines would run as high as $124. The state would get 30 percent of the revenue while the community would keep the rest.

“Knowing that if you run a red light you will receive a ticket in the mail will be a huge incentive for drivers to slow down and think twice about breaking the law,” Looney said in a statement. “It will free up police resources and save lives.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy also supports use of the technology. He has called it “highway appropriate.”

Opponents, including OOIDA, question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the focus on traffic cameras ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic.

“The goal should be to keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. He said that communities would be better served to pursue “intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow.”

A few hundred miles down the coast, Maryland is the site of a renewed effort to modify the state’s speed camera law.

In 2009, Maryland adopted a law allowing speed cameras to be posted in highway construction zones where the speed limit is at least 45 mph. The enforcement tool is also authorized in school zones.

Violators face $40 fines. No points are added to offenders’ licenses and insurance companies are not notified.

Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Towson, has introduced a bill that would limit use of speed cameras in highway work zones for when workers are on the job.

This year’s effort – SB57 – is the second time in as many years that Brochin has brought the bill up for consideration. The previous attempt failed to advance from committee.

On the opposite coast an effort is underway in Washington state to standardize use of ticket cameras throughout the state. Communities with cameras would also be required to prepare annual reports on how many crashes occur in intersections rigged with the devices and how many tickets are issued for each camera.

The bill – SB5188 – includes a requirement for yellow-light times to match federal standards.

In Iowa, two efforts seek to revoke the use of ticket cameras throughout the state, including programs already in place in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Council Bluffs.

One bill – HF2048 – would make the ban state law while a separate initiative would leave the decision up to voters. Likening the enforcement method to “Big Brother,” Gov. Terry Branstad said this week he would put his signature on legislation to outlaw the traffic-monitoring devices.

Colorado lawmakers are also expected to take up the issue. Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, introduced a bill to prohibit cities and towns from using red-light and speed cameras. Cameras employed on toll roads and HOV lanes would not be affected.

Multiple bills offered at the Missouri statehouse seek to discourage, or outright prohibit, the use of cameras to issue tickets.

Out of concern that the cameras are unconstitutional, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville, wants to prohibit local governments from using photo systems at intersections to ticket drivers.

“This is an example of big government and ‘Big Brother’ at its worst,” Lembke said in a previous statement.

Another Senate bill is intended to discourage communities from using red-light or speed cameras as a “money grab.” Sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, the bill would require cities using the technology to route all fines collected to the local school district. Typically, the revenue is put into the general fund.

On the House side, Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, is looking to prohibit use of speed cameras on all roadways except in school, construction or work zones.

Multiple Florida bills also target use of ticket cameras. A year after Florida lawmakers gave communities around the state the green light to pursue automated enforcement, efforts are underway to repeal the authority.

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