States address ticket camera rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/13/2012

The use of automated cameras to ticket drivers for speeding or running red lights is getting a lot of attention at statehouses around the country.

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

In Washington state, a bill halfway through the Legislature would standardize use of ticket cameras throughout the state. Communities with cameras would also be required to prepare annual reports on how many crashes occur in intersections rigged with the devices and how many tickets are issued for each camera.

The bill – SB5188 – includes a requirement for yellow-light times to match federal standards.

Lawmakers in Iowa are also giving a lot of attention to ticket cameras. The House voted to advance a bill to prohibit the use of the enforcement tool in the state. HF2048 would also require the eight cities that already use the cameras to take them down.

Likening the enforcement method to “Big Brother,” Gov. Terry Branstad has said he would put his signature on legislation to outlaw the traffic-monitoring devices.

While various states look to curb or at a minimum rein in the use of the revenue generator, an effort is underway in Connecticut to authorize use of red-light cameras.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, is leading a push to allow cities with 60,000 or more people to use the technology. The state would get 30 percent of the revenue while the community would keep the rest.

“Knowing that if you run a red light you will receive a ticket in the mail will be a huge incentive for drivers to slow down and think twice about breaking the law,” Looney said in a statement. “It will free up police resources and save lives.”

Gov. Dan Malloy also supports use of the technology.

Opponents, including OOIDA, 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.

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

Elsewhere, multiple bills offered at the Missouri statehouse seek to discourage, or outright prohibit, the use of cameras to issue tickets. However, one effort to route camera revenue to school districts was voted down in committee.

During discussion on the bill Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, made a point to mention that police departments need the money.

Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, also chimed in his concern. He told lawmakers that “to take a revenue stream away from a municipality is extremely shortsighted.”

Multiple Florida bills on the move also target use of ticket cameras. A year after Florida lawmakers gave communities around the state the green light to pursue automated enforcement, efforts are underway to make it easier to challenge citations.

Up the coast in Maryland a bill calls for limiting use of speed cameras in highway work zones for when workers are on the job. A 2009 law allows speed cameras to be posted in highway construction zones where the speed limit is at least 45 mph.

Two New Jersey bills cover automated enforcement. The first bill would authorize speed cameras to be posted in highway work zones. The other bill would outlaw use of red-light cameras throughout the state.

Efforts underway in Alabama and Colorado would also prohibit cities and towns from using red-light and speed cameras. An Illinois bill would forbid the issuance of automated tickets for turning right on red.

In contrast, a West Virginia bill would authorize the use of ticket cameras.

Lawmakers in two more states are taking unique approaches to the issue. An Arizona bill would mandate that traffic signals must be red for at least one second before camera tickets can be issued.

A Tennessee bill would require countdown timers to be included at intersections outfitted with red-light cameras.

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