States pursue limits, end to ticket cameras

| 5/19/2011

Concern about the use of ticket cameras being motivated by revenue has spurred lawmakers in various states to address whether the enforcement tool should be allowed.

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

A California bill is intended to help ensure that communities use red-light cameras to improve safety, not to fill coffers. The Senate unanimously approved the bill to regulate use of the ticket cameras by establishing statewide standards for installation and operation. It now awaits further consideration in the Assembly.

The enforcement tool is used throughout the state under the guise of increasing safety on the roadways. There are at least 500 cameras posted.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, wrote in the bill that before communities can install cameras they must show that “they system is needed at a specific location for reasons related to safety.” The provision would affect ticket systems installed after Jan. 1, 2012.

The bill – SB29 – would also require local governments to better warn drivers that the cameras are in use.

Simitian said he does not oppose red-light cameras per se.

“They raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process,” he said in a statement. “I believe that traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue.”

Similarly, an effort in Tennessee is underway to standardize photo enforcement camera systems statewide.

If signed into law, traffic studies would need to show the system is necessary. The bill – HB1500 – would also prohibit cities from issuing tickets to drivers who fail to come to a complete stop when making a right turn on red. In addition, cities would be blocked from issuing photo tickets for making a right turn at a red unless a sign is posted prohibiting right turns on red.

In North Carolina, the Senate advanced a bill to the House that would ban red-light cameras from intersections.

Existing law authorizes more than 20 communities throughout the state to use the cameras. However, most of the communities discontinued their programs after a court ruling specified that most of the revenues must be used for education.

About a half-dozen communities still use the enforcement tool. That could soon end. The bill – SB187 – would make it illegal to operate any red-light cameras.

South Carolina law already is set up to forbid the use of ticket cameras. Violations based solely on photos are required to be issued in person within an hour. However, the requirement has not stopped one community in Jasper County from posting cameras on Interstate 95 to nab speeders.

According to reports, the town of Ridgeland has issued close to 10,000 tickets since last summer. An officer is posted nearby inside an RV, and the tickets are mailed to the registered owners.

In response, a bill in the Senate would expressly outlaw speeding tickets based on photos. S336 would also require police to directly hand tickets to drivers within an hour of a violation.

OOIDA leadership says the focus on ticket 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.

Communities should be pursuing “intelligent traffic lights that actually monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow,” he said.

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