Bill to prohibit traffic cameras advances in West Virginia

| 2/22/2006

The West Virginia House has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would prohibit cities from using automated cameras to ticket drivers.

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.

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 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.

Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, said he sponsored the measure because of a dispute over traffic cameras in neighboring Steubenville , OH.

The city of Steubenville faces a possible class-action lawsuit after it began using three cameras to snare speeders last fall, The Associated Press reported.

According to The AP, the city and the cameras’ maker have so far shared $230,000 collected from 2,700 speeding tickets. Motorists, which include some West Virginia residents, are mailed $85 tickets weeks after they passed through the area.

The bill – HB4004 – has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.