Missouri bill would ban red-light cameras

| 1/19/2006

A bill in the Missouri Senate would no longer allow cities to use automated cameras to ticket drivers. The effort, however, isn’t stopping one Missouri city from pursuing the cameras.

The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders. A ticket is mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless who was driving at the time.

Sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, the bill would prohibit local governments from installing the cameras. Any cameras already in place – such as those in Arnold , MO , and Florissant , MO – also would have to come down.

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

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

In fact, 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 tickets.

Further, Crowell said some are concerned over a funding arrangement that gives the companies installing cameras a share of the revenue from fines. Companies change the timing of monitored lights by actions such as shortening yellow-light cycles – meaning more tickets and more revenue for the vendors, Crowell told the Southeast Missourian.

The bill – SB719 – doesn’t include a provision to bar the state from using cell phone tracking systems to monitor and ticket people driving on highways in the state, but Crowell said that could be added to the bill during debate.

The state recently entered into a contract with National Engineering Technology Corp. to begin tracking cell phone signals during a trial period in Kansas City , MO , and St. Louis .

The monitoring will provide the state with information about traffic on 5,500 miles of Missouri interstates and numbered roads.

“We may want to act in a preventive manner,” Crowell told the newspaper.

The debate hasn’t stopped Springfield city officials from moving forward with plans to bring the cameras to town.

The city council could vote as early as Monday, Jan. 23, to authorize the cameras at the city’s most dangerous intersections, the Springfield News-Leader reported.