Alabama lawmaker pursues law to allow traffic cameras

| 3/19/2007

If an Alabama state lawmaker gets his way, it will be easier for cities and counties in the state to use cameras at traffic lights to catch those running red lights.

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.

Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, said the intent of the cameras is to make people slow down as they approach traffic signals and discourage them from running red lights. His bill would supersede local ordinances and establish guidelines for such programs, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Violators would face up to $100 fines. Offenses wouldn't count against driving records or insurance rates.

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 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 to avoid tickets.

The bill - HB24 - is in the House Public Safety Committee.