Pennsylvania bills address so-called safety initiatives

| 7/8/2011

Billed as efforts to improve safety on Pennsylvania roadways, two measures would allow more communities throughout the state to post red-light cameras and reduce distracted driving.

One bill would authorize cities across the state to enforce traffic light laws with the aid of cameras. Sponsored by Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny, the bill – HB821 – would permit cities to adopt ordinances to install ticket cameras at intersections.

Violators would face fines of up to $100.

Philadelphia already has cameras posted at 19 intersections around the city. The automated devices have reportedly raised about $28 million in a little more than five years.

The revenue is split between the city of Philadelphia and the state.

This spring, Gov. Tom Corbett announced $8.4 million in grants for 106 transportation projects in the state funded with fines collected from the city’s cameras. The governor said the money would help municipalities upgrade traffic lights and other basic systems.

“These improvements have the potential to make a big difference in traffic flow and mean better mobility for people across the state,” Corbett stated.

A separate bill – SB595 – to authorize red-light camera use would apply solely to cities with at least 30,000 people.

In an effort to guard against the devices being used solely to enhance local revenue, the bill specifies that communities cannot raise more than 5 percent of their annual budget from camera fines.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, dispute any claim that the primary focus of the cameras is to keep people safe. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said it is obvious that Pennsylvania’s use of the enforcement tool is primarily focused on filling coffers instead of simply trying to keep people safe.

“When you have enforcement that is designed for revenue, you undermine respect for legitimate safety initiatives,” Spencer said.

Another bill addresses concerns about distracted driving. An offense of “careless driving” would be created for driving while on the phone, eating, drinking or other activities that distract.

Careless driving offenses would be classified as a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another reason, such as speeding.

Violators would face $50 fines, in addition to other offenses resulting from the traffic stop. Fines would escalate if injuries result from careless driving.

The careless driving bill – HB896 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee. The House previously approved it.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to