States seek to change ticket camera rules

| 1/6/2011

As lawmakers around the country head to work at state capitols throughout the country, the use of automated cameras to ticket drivers for speeding or running red lights is expected to be a topic that is debated.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of automated enforcement. Oppositely, 10 states have acted to prohibit use of the enforcement tool.

Despite Missouri being only a couple of days into the start of the legislative year, multiple bills are ready for consideration that seek to discourage, or outright prohibit, the use of cameras to issue tickets.

The devices, which are used 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.

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

“This is an example of big government and ‘Big Brother’ at its worst,” Lembke said in a previous statement.

Another Senate bill is intended to discourage communities from using red-light or speed cameras as a “money grab.” Sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, the bill would require cities using the technology to route all fines collected to the local school district. Typically, the revenue is put into the general fund.

On the House side, Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, is looking to prohibit use of speed cameras on all roadways except in school, construction or work zones.

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 goal should be to keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. He said that communities should be pursuing “intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow.”

The use of automated enforcement is a concern elsewhere. A Maryland bill would modify the state’s speed camera law.

In 2009, Maryland adopted a law allowing speed cameras to be posted in highway construction zones where the speed limit is at least 45 mph. The enforcement tool is also authorized in school zones.

Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Towson, is pursuing a change that would limit use of the devices in work zones only when workers are on the job. He claims that there are numerous instances when cameras are in use while nobody is working, and at other times cameras are not in operation when construction is being done.

In Nevada, lawmakers will be asked to reverse the state’s stance on the technology. State law now prohibits use of camera radar by law enforcement officers or agencies.

An effort introduced on behalf of the Nevada Department of Transportation would repeal the state’s ban on cameras.

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