Bill to prohibit traffic cameras heads to West Virginia governor

| 3/29/2006

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

The state’s Senate voted 26-8 in early March to advance the bill, which the House approved 88-3 in February. The bill – HB4004 – now heads to Gov. Joe Manchin’s desk for his signature.

The cameras in question 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 opponents question the effectiveness of such cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more 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 about traffic cameras in neighboring Steubenville, OH.

A court ruled earlier this month the traffic camera citations sent to thousands of drivers, which include some West Virginia residents, are invalid.

Ohio Court of Common Pleas Judge David Henderson struck down the speed camera ordinance because the camera maker and the city didn’t notify drivers of the ordinance prior to cameras being posted, The Associated Press reported.

The city has been ordered to refund the fines from 3,000 to 4,000 invalid tickets, at $85 each, that have already been paid.

Steubenville Councilwoman Debbie Welsch told The AP she’s upset with the decision, but that the city would head back to the drawing board to bring the ordinance into compliance and reimplement the cameras.