Traffic camera bill rejected in New Hampshire

| Monday, April 18, 2005

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House earlier this month voted against a bill that sought to give communities in the state the green light to install cameras at traffic lights to catch drivers running red lights.

The bill, which previously passed the House Transportation Committee 14-0, was defeated 217-99. A parliamentary move to “indefinitely postpone” HB679 passed by a voice vote, meaning the issue cannot come up for consideration again during the two-year legislative session.

Sponsored by Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, it would have allowed cities or towns with a population of 20,000 or more to install the motion-activated cameras at intersections. The measure allowed the New Hampshire Department of Safety to install cameras in smaller communities on state roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration endorses the cameras, which are in communities in 20 states and the District of Columbia, as one piece of a safety approach that incorporates better engineering, education and enforcement. But the agency said the question of whether to use the cameras should be left up to local decision-makers.

Supporters say the equipment acts as a deterrent and helps snare red-light-running drivers who otherwise might not get caught.

But some question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents.

Under the bill, cameras would snap pictures of red-light runners and a ticket would be mailed to the vehicle owner. Signs would be posted alerting drivers to the cameras use at affected intersections.

Cities would be allowed to set the fines to as much as $100. No points would be added to offenders’ licenses and their insurance companies would not be notified.

Ticket revenues would be split evenly between the state and the city.

Transportation panel members also voted down a bill that would have made seat-belt use in the state mandatory.

HB705 sought to permit police to ticket unbelted drivers and passengers in vehicles pulled over for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight.

New Hampshire, whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” has long resisted a universal seat-belt law, though every other state has one.

Lawmakers voted 180-124 to kill the measure.

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