States advance ticket camera bills

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/30/2012

Efforts to address the use of automated cameras to ticket drivers for running red lights and for speeding continue to draw attention at statehouses across the country.

There are 10 states that have acted to prohibit use of automated enforcement. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 27 states have laws permitting at least one type of the enforcement tool. About 590 communities in these states use the moneymakers.

Illinois is one state where communities can use both types of ticket cameras. One bill halfway through the Legislature addresses the minimum yellow light change intervals for traffic signals at affected intersections.

The Senate voted 43-5 on Thursday, March 29, to advance a bill to the House that would require yellow standards to be set in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards. Federal guidelines specify times somewhere between three and six seconds – depending on such factors as the grade of the road and the speed limit.

In addition to adopting the federal recommendation, SB3504 would mandate that municipalities add an additional second to the yellow time.

The effort is intended to prevent communities from using the technology as a revenue generator.

Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Barrington, is among the advocates for the change who point to research showing that by lengthening yellow time, the number of red-light running incidents is reduced between 30 percent and 92 percent.

Jim Walker, a consultant for the National Motorists Association, noted that a similar rule in Georgia led to an 80 percent reduction in incidents. As a result, many communities removed cameras.

Then-Norcross, GA, Police Chief Dallas Stidd said at the time that the change made a big difference.

“The addition of one second has made a significant reduction in red-light violations,” Stidd wrote in a memo to the city council.

At this point, city officials around Illinois are slow to embrace Duffy’s bill, which could reduce revenues resulting from $100 fines for running a red light.

A similar push is ongoing in neighboring Missouri. The state’s full House could soon take up for consideration a bill to force the state Department of Transportation to require yellow standards to be set in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards.

If approved on the House floor, the bill from Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, would advance to the governor’s desk. The Senate already approved SB611.

Jamey Murphy, Lembke’s chief of staff, said the change is aimed at reining in cities like Arnold, MO.

The community, which is located south of St. Louis, was forced by MoDOT to adopt the federal guidelines after installing red-light cameras and then using its own shortened yellow-light formula.

“We’re putting a floor in so you can’t shorten them. But we allow engineers to lengthen them, if they feel comfortable,” Murphy recently told “Land Line Now.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports efforts to limit ticket cameras. OOIDA officials say the focus on the revenue-generating devices 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.”

While Illinois, Missouri and other states look to curb or at a minimum limit the use of the revenue generator, a Connecticut bill would authorize use of red-light cameras.

The legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation voted 26-11 to advance a bill to the House that would allow cities with 48,000 or more people to use the technology.

During his testimony in support of HB5458, Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford, said the push is all about safety. He also said cameras would provide “a new resource that will allow for more efficient use of law enforcement time.”

However, Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, has a completely different perspective.

“Evidence shows the best way to change driving habits is through direct patrols and enforcement. … It is through these direct enforcements that safety has been increased,” Witkos testified.

Gov. Dan Malloy has said he supports use of the technology.

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Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

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