Will Ohio join other states in limiting red-light cameras?

| 7/30/2009

An Ohio state lawmaker has offered a bill that seeks to rein in the use of red-light cameras throughout the state.

Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, introduced legislation that would prohibit use of the enforcement tool by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, counties and townships. Cities that use, or are planning to use, the cameras would not be affected.

The exception is made for home rule cities because of a 2008 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that allows cities to create their own traffic regulations and use automated systems to enforce them.

Three states have already acted this year to put a stop to the use of camera enforcement to catch drivers breaking traffic laws.

A new law in Montana outlaws using cameras or other technology to enforce traffic violations not witnessed by police officers. As a result, the cities of Bozeman and Billings will not be able to follow through with their plans to post cameras to nab red light runners.

The rule change was a blow to red light camera advocates who say the cameras are about safety and technology being used in a helpful way. Others say the devices free up police to address bigger issues.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.

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.

In Mississippi, similar concerns spurred lawmakers to prohibit the use of red-light cameras in the state. The new law also forces communities already using the devices to remove them by Oct. 1.

A new rule in Maine prevents the state, or communities within the state, from employing photo enforcement to nab drivers breaking traffic laws.

While traffic surveillance cameras are not in use in Maine, the new law was a proactive step taken to make sure they don’t start showing up around the state. The ban applies to red-light and speed cameras.

Referring to camera usage as “a money grab,” Combs said that Ohio needs to act now to limit the use of the technology before the devices are tapped for additional enforcement efforts such as catching jaywalkers crossing the middle of the street.

Combs’ bill – HB143 – is in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio 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.