Red-light, speed cameras under the gun in Missouri

| 12/8/2010

The use of automated cameras by cities is expected to get a lot of attention next year at the Missouri statehouse. Multiple efforts filed by lawmakers seek to discourage, or outright prohibit, their use throughout the state.

The devices, which are used in more than two dozen Missouri towns, snap pictures of speeding or red-light running vehicles. A ticket is mailed to the owner of the vehicle, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Out of concern that the cameras are unconstitutional, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Mehlville, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the session that begins Jan. 6. SB16 would prohibit local governments from using photo systems at intersections to ticket drivers.

On the House side, Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, offered a bill – HB53 – that would prohibit use of speed cameras on all roadways except in school, construction or work zones.

Lembke contends that 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 previous 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.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says 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,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

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

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

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