West Virginia governor signs traffic-camera ban

| Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gov. Joe Manchin has signed a bill into law prohibiting cities in West Virginia from using automated cameras to ticket drivers.

The new law, previously HB4004, won widespread support in the state Legislature.

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 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 in March the traffic camera citations Steubenville 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 cameras’ maker and the city didn’t notify drivers of the ordinance prior to cameras being posted, The Associated Press reported.

The Ohio city has been ordered to refund the fines – at $85 each – that have already been paid on 3,000 invalid tickets. Steubenville and the cameras’ manufacturer, Traffipax, are expected to file an appeal, which will delay the refund of the ticket money, The Intelligencer in Wheeling reported.

Steubenville Councilwoman Debbie Welsch told The AP the city would head back to the drawing board to bring the ordinance into compliance and reimplement the cameras.

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