States contemplate legality, effectiveness of red light cameras

| Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At least two states are looking into whether Big Brother’s watchful eye is enough to issue a traffic ticket.

In Minneapolis, a city where 16 red light cameras were installed at 12 intersections as a pilot program, only about 40 percent of drivers caught by the cameras were actually issued tickets.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, about 11,500 drivers were caught on film between July 7 – a month after the cameras were installed and the first day tickets began being issued – and Aug. 6. But due to technical problems with the cameras such as blocked views from tree branches and larger vehicles, and legal right turns, only about 4,500 drivers were issued tickets.

“We’re not happy because that means there are a lot of people going through red lights,” Lt. Gregory Reinhardt of the Minneapolis Police Department told the Star Tribune. “It’s new, people are aware of it, but they haven’t changed their behavior. It’ll take a number of months for them to change their behavior.”

Meanwhile, in Missouri, state Attorney General Jay Nixon is questioning whether the photographs provide enough proof to hand out tickets to motorists.

“I think it’s pretty clear these pictures can’t be the sole or only evidence to cite drivers for violating state traffic laws,” Nixon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I have deep concern whether taking someone’s picture rolling through a stop light is adequate evidence in and of itself to uphold a state traffic law.”

Several towns in Missouri have already installed the cameras, and more are expected in the near future. Officials in the towns say the cameras would help enforce local ordinances, and would be out of the jurisdiction of statewide laws, according to the Post-Dispatch.

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