New Ohio law sets strict rules for ticket cameras

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/31/2014

A new law in Ohio is touted to severely limit the ability of police to issue automated tickets.

Twelve states prohibit the use of speed cameras and nine states prohibit the use of red-light cameras, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. Twelve states use speed cameras operating in at least one location while 24 states use red-light cameras.

Gov. Jon Kasich signed a bill into law to put in place strict rules on the use of red-light and speed cameras throughout the state. Starting in mid-March, police officers will be required to be present at red-light and speed camera sites to witness violations. However, tickets could still be mailed to violators as long as an officer was at the scene to witness the violation.

Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, has acknowledged that the new law is not a complete ban on the use of ticket cameras, but he described it as “the next best thing.”

“It accomplishes many of the same objectives (as a complete ban.) It prevents cities from scamming motorists under the guise of safety,” Maag said during recent floor discussion.

According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, about 250 ticket cameras are in use by at least 14 municipalities throughout the state. The annual expense to station officers at each location is estimated to be $73 million.

Opponents have said the new rules will be the death knell for ticketing programs. They say the expense of paying to have officers at each camera location would undermine the cameras’ cost-effectiveness.

Rep. John Carney, D-Columbus, acknowledged there are communities around the state that use the technology to “play gotcha” with drivers. However, he said the cameras do improve safety and lawmakers would be better served to work something out to set “appropriate regulations.”

Automated ticketing has faced a lot of pushback in Ohio in recent years. In November, voters in the city of Cleveland and its suburb of Maple Heights approved ballot questions that mirror the bill’s requirement for police officers to be on the scene to hand out citations.

Seven other Ohio locales previously acted to outlaw use of the enforcement tool. Cities that have taken action are Cincinnati, Ashtabula, Chillicothe, Garfield Heights, Heath, Steubenville and South Euclid.

Maag said it was time for state lawmakers to act.

“The outcry from citizens who feel their rights have been violated is constant and increasing.”

Also included in the new law is a provision that preserves the right for public votes on whether to prohibit the use of red-light and speed cameras.

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