Ohio bill would restrict red-light camera use

| 6/30/2006

An Ohio Senate panel has voted to impose restrictions on the use of automated cameras at intersections throughout the state. The changes could affect several cities.

The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee approved a bill that would effectively ban cameras in the state used to catch speeders and reduce the amount of control local jurisdictions have on the operation of red-light cameras. Its next stop is the Senate floor. If approved there, the bill would head back to the House for a final vote before moving to Gov. Bob Taft’s office.

The bill initially called for an out-right ban of red-light cameras. The transportation panel, however, opted to remove some of the profit incentives to use the devices.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Raussen, R-Springfield, the measure prohibits the use of speed cameras, which currently are operated entirely at the discretion of local authorities. Police officers would be required to witness speeding violations and personally issue tickets to the offending drivers at the time of the incident.

The bill – HB56 – also ends the practice of paying camera vendors a portion of the fine amount. Instead, vendors would receive flat-rate contracts.

Opponents say that provisions included in the bill would make the program too expensive and would force cities to contemplate scaling back camera use.

Supporters say the changes would alleviate concerns that the devices are being used primarily as a revenue generator for cities and other jurisdictions.

Raussen said studies have also indicated that the cameras do not reduce accidents.

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.

A provision in the bill is intended to address concerns that the cameras do more harm that good. It would require that if, after 24 months, accidents don’t decrease at intersections with the cameras, they must be removed.