Safety or economics? Indiana bill wants red-light camera pilot program

| 1/30/2009

A bill in the Indiana Senate would allow towns in the state to place cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association questions the motives behind the effort.

Sponsored by Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen, the bill would give the green light to 10 cities to place cameras at stoplights as part of a pilot program. It calls for authorizing each city to place the cameras at up to 10 intersections.

Participating cities would be required to adopt ordinances for the program, which uses a stationary camera to photograph the license plate of vehicles caught entering the intersection when the light is red. Authorization from the Indiana Department of Transportation to post the cameras also would be mandated.

Police officers would review the photos before sending a citation, which could cost the vehicle’s registered owner up to $100. Fines would be applied to defray the cost of the system. Any remaining funds would be routed to a violent crime victims fund.

Another provision in the bill would mandate that yellow lights must have a duration of at least five seconds.

Advocates say the bill is about safety and using technology in a helpful way. Others say authorizing the use of cameras frees up police to address bigger issues.

Opponents, including trucking industry officials, 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,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, told Land Line.

Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents. In fact, multiple studies have found that crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras.

The bill – SB389 – is in the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation & Veterans Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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