Efforts would steer funding, ban red-light cameras in Missouri

| 12/16/2009

With the start of the Missouri legislative session a little more than two weeks away, a couple of state lawmakers have already made it clear they have a bone to pick with cities’ use of automated cameras.

The devices, which are in use in more than 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. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, has prefiled a bill that is intended to discourage communities from using red-light cameras as a “money grab.” Cities using the technology would be required to route all fines collected to the local school district. Typically, the revenue is put into the general fund.

Some of the cities that use the cameras include Arnold, Columbia, Florissant, Kansas City, St. Peters and Springfield.

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

This is the second year in a row Lembke has pursued getting rid of red light cameras. During the 2009 session, the Senate Transportation Committee rejected the bill.

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

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 goal should be to keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

Spencer also said that communities should be pursuing “intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow.”

Lembke’s bill – SB637 – and Kraus’ bill – HB1229 – are awaiting assignment to committee for the session that begins Jan. 6.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, 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.