Virginia House kills photo-red programs - again

| 2/25/2005

The Virginia House seemingly has pulled the final plug on the use of cameras to catch red light runners.

Pilot programs in several Virginia localities will end as scheduled July 1 because of a parliamentary ruling by House Speaker William Howell on Thursday, Feb. 24.

The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee last week rejected several bills to keep the “photo red” programs alive at selected intersections in Virginia Beach and six northern Virginia communities: Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Vienna and Arlington and Fairfax counties. The programs were authorized in 1995.

However, the Senate added red-light camera language into a bill – HB1576 – that originally required drivers to provide their license plate numbers to police when they have an accident.

Howell, R-Stafford, ruled Thursday the amendment was not related closely enough to the bill to which it was attached.

Advocates for the “photo red” bills said the technology encourages voluntary compliance, reduces accidents and saves lives. Opponents argue that cameras infringe on motorists’ rights to face their accusers.

Jim Kadison, a lobbyist for the National Motorists Association, was pleased to hear of the program’s closure.

“We truly think this is a bad thing,” he said of the photo-red programs. He told The Associated Press the monitoring systems cause more accidents than they prevent.

One bill the House panel rejected and has not seen a renewed push to revive it was an effort to permit police to pull over drivers who are not buckled up.

Currently, police in Virginia can issue seat-belt citations to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation.

A measure offered by Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, would have created a primary law for seat-belt enforcement. It also would have required all occupants of the vehicle, not just the driver and front-seat passenger, to wear seat belts.

The committee voted 13-4 on Feb. 18 to kill the bill – SB901.