Efforts would place limits, ban on red-light cameras in Missouri

| 2/4/2009

A pair of bills in the Missouri statehouse would restrict or ban the use of automated cameras by cities to ticket drivers.

The cameras, which are in use in at least two dozen Missouri towns, snap pictures of red-light runners’ or speeders’ vehicles. A ticket is mailed to the owner of the vehicle, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Rep. Brian Yates, R-Lee’s Summit, sponsored a bill that would require municipalities to handle photo enforcement in a uniform manner.

To help guard against using the technology as a revenue enhancer, signs would be required to be posted within 500 feet of intersections with cameras. A white strip would indicate the “stop line” at signals.

All photo-enforcement systems also would need to be registered with the state.

Cities using the technology would be required to annually report information to the state, including the number of citations and total revenue collected. Cities that use the cameras include Arnold, Columbia, Florissant, Kansas City, St. Peters and Springfield.

The bill also would mandate that participating cities pay a $500 fee for each light. The revenue would be used to pay for future audits.

The combined fines and court costs could not top $25.

Out of concern that the cameras are unconstitutional, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville, authored a separate effort that would prohibit local governments from using photo-red systems at intersections.

“The cameras can’t prove who’s driving the vehicle, and many people argue this method of traffic enforcement disregards a person’s Fifth Amendment rights and forces self-incrimination,” Lembke said in a written statement. “This is an example of big government and ‘Big Brother’ at its worst.”

The bill includes a grandfather clause for cities that already use the enforcement tool.

Supporters of the equipment say it acts as a deterrent and helps snare red-light-running drivers who otherwise might not get caught. Opponents question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.

Others, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, say the focus on traffic cameras ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic.

“The motivation shouldn’t ever be stopping vehicles. You are taking the discussion away from where it should be, and that should be synchronizing lights. The discussions should be about how to keep traffic moving,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

Yates’ bill – HB241 – is in the House Public Safety Committee. Lembke’s bill – SB211 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.