States look at changes to ticket camera rules

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ticket cameras are a perennial topic in states throughout the country. This year the issue is again drawing discussion in statehouses – both for and against the enforcement tool.

Jim Walker, a consultant for the National Motorists Association, said that lawmakers would be better served to look at another option.

“You can put in a camera, and after one year the typical reduction rate is 40 to 50 percent,” Walker told Land Line. “If you add a second to yellow you will normally achieve a 60 to 90 percent reduction rate in one day, but it guts the revenue stream.”

Lawmakers in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland and Washington are looking to ban the use of red-light cameras and/or speed cameras.

Additional efforts in Iowa and Missouri wouldn’t end ticket camera programs, but they would take much of the incentive away for communities to use the money-making devices. An Arizona bill would impose specific requirements for posting speed cameras.

Specifically, the Missouri bill would route revenue to local school districts while an Iowa bill would direct the money to local nonprofits.

Multiple measures in Maryland also would discourage the use of cameras to dole out tickets. One bill would require daily calibration checks of equipment. Another bill would penalize speed camera companies and local governments $1,000 each for false violations.

Delegate Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore, said changes are needed to show residents that the cameras are not a money grab.

“We want to make sure the vendors are being held to the same degree of accountability as the driving public,” Cardin told “Land Line Now.”

A recent analysis by the New Jersey Department of Transportation showed that the so-called “automatic ticketing machines” also are a safety hazard.

The agency found that intersections posted with the cameras have seen an increase in wrecks. The collisions are also more costly.

New Jersey Sen. Mike Doherty, R-Washington, said the report’s findings are no surprise. He said it’s time to take down the cameras.

“This complete failure to achieve that primary goal of increasing driver safety should lead to the immediate termination of the red-light camera pilot program,” Doherty said in a statement.

New Jersey lawmakers are pushing for alternatives to simply dispensing tickets for red-light violations. One bill would lengthen yellow times at intersections posted with cameras. It would also implement a one-second delay for violations.

Other states, including Indiana and Oregon, are looking at bills that would authorize red-light cameras and speed cameras, respectively.

In Connecticut, lawmakers introduced two bills to allow cities with 48,000 or more people to use red-light cameras.

Multiple bills offered in the Empire State would result in more cameras posted in New York City. One bill would add 100 red-light cameras to the 150 already posted in the city. A separate bill would set up a truck weight photo-monitoring system while another bill would authorize the use of speed radar on one busy thoroughfare.

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.

Walker notes that easy fixes are available, such as installing backplates to traffic lights, to lower red-light violation rates nearly 50 percent.

“If you re-engineer lights for inexpensive changes, you would do more for safety than can be accomplished with a camera, but it won’t make any money. Engineering for safety is not profitable.”

Editor’s Note: You are welcome to share your thoughts with us about this story. Comments may be sent to state_legislative_editor@ooida.com.

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