A couple of bills moving through the Nevada Senate are
intended to make the state's roadways a little safer.
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee
voted Tuesday, March 13, to approve a bill that would allow red-light cameras
to be posted throughout the state and another bill that would permit police to
pull over drivers for failure to buckle up.
Existing state law prohibits use of camera radar by law
enforcement officers or agencies. The bill offered by Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las
Vegas, would authorize a pilot program to allow cities and counties to use
photo enforcement at certain traffic signals.
The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners' vehicles and
license plates. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles' owners, regardless who was
driving at the time.
Supporters say the equipment encourages compliance with the
law and saves lives by reducing collisions. Opponents question the claim that
cameras are solely intended to keep people safe.
"The motivation of every player in this deal is economics.
Whether it's the local jurisdiction or the manufacturer: That's not reasonable
justification for doing that," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of
the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
Others question the effectiveness of such intersection
cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more
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
Nolan's bill - SB61 - was amended in committee to require
photos to capture images of drivers' faces instead of solely vehicle license
plates. Contractors processing tickets would be prohibited from being paid
based on the number of citations issued, The
Associated Press reported.
Other provisions in the bill would authorize fine amounts
equal to the locality's lowest parking ticket, plus the cost of operating the
camera. Offenses wouldn't count against driving records or insurance rates.
Another bill offered by Nolan, SB42, that is headed to the
Senate floor would allow for primary enforcement of the state's seat belt law.
Currently, law enforcement officers in the state can issue seat-belt citations
to drivers only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as
Failure to buckle up would continue to be a $25 fine.
Opponents cite personal choice and the potential for racial
profiling among the concerns about the stricter enforcement effort. Supporters
said saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to
approve the stricter rule.
If approved, Nevada would be line for a one-time $5.4
million payment from the federal government. The 2005 federal Highway Bill
gives any state that adopts tougher seat-belt rules one-time grant money equal
to 500 percent of the highway funding they received in 2003.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor