Tennessee photo enforcement under the gun

| Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A leading topic of conversation this year at the Tennessee statehouse is what to do about the use of traffic cameras throughout the state. One legislative effort would restrict cities’ use of the enforcement tool.

Many communities throughout Tennessee permit the use of red-light and speed cameras to help with enforcement efforts. Supporters say the devices are about safety and about using technology 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 solely intended to keep people safe. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says the motivation of the local jurisdiction and the manufacturer is economics.

Concern about using the cameras as a revenue enhancer has spurred legislation that is intended to limit use of the technology. The bill expected to come up for consideration this week in the House Finance and Ways & Means Committee includes a number of provisions to rein in the enforcement tool.

One provision would require traffic engineering studies for all new traffic enforcement cameras. Local governing bodies would also need to vote on whether to approve engineering studies and the placement of cameras.

The bill – HB3024 – includes a two-year moratorium on putting new cameras in place and renewals of existing contracts. However, the committee is expected to remove the moratorium provision. Fines would be limited to $50 with no extra fees added on for late payment.

Vehicles couldn’t be in violation of photo enforcement until after the light has turned red for at least a half-second. Intersections would need to have a white line and a “stop here on red” sign. To be in violation, a vehicle must have a rear tire beyond the stop line.

Also included is a requirement that police officers review all citations. Currently, reviews are done by law enforcement “employees.”

A separate provision would mandate that cities and counties post the locations of cameras on local government websites. A statewide list must be available on the state comptroller’s website.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Tennessee, 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.