Ohio bill would prohibit traffic cameras

| 2/18/2005

A proposal in the Ohio House threatens cities’ use of automated cameras that ticket drivers who run red lights.

“There is a mad rush across the state, with Toledo an exception because it already has cameras, to put in these red-light cameras without proper debate,” state Rep. Jim Raussen said.

The bill would prohibit law-enforcement agencies from using photo-monitoring devices, such as red-light and speed-enforcement cameras, unless a police officer is present and witnesses the traffic violation.

Raussen, R-Springdale, said studies indicated that the cameras had not reduced accidents.

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 a ticket.

But Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre told The Toledo Blade that accidents are down at 13 intersections in the city where the cameras are placed.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders. A ticket is mailed to the vehicle owner. No points are added to the offender’s license and his/her insurance company is not notified.

Raussen said he’s not sure whether cities were interested in the cameras to improve safety or to improve their bottom lines.

“Somebody has to speak up for the public here,” he said. “Is it really for public safety?”

Dayton and Toledo are the only major Ohio cities with red-light cameras in place, but Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland are either considering them or moving to install them, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Cincinnati’s city council approved the idea in December; it is expected to generate $2 million a year to help close the city’s growing budget deficit. Council members said Raussen’s effort to limit the cameras was stepping on the city’s right to govern itself.

Rep. Steve Buehrer, R-Delta, supports the bill for several reasons, including privacy issues and due process to contest the citations.

“People continue to run red lights,” he said. “We haven’t solved the problem.”

HB56 is awaiting assignment to a committee.