Michigan, Ohio and Florida consider new rules on ticket cameras

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/7/2013

The use of automated cameras to ticket drivers for running red lights is under review at multiple statehouses.

A Michigan bill would allow communities to post cameras at intersections in an effort to thwart red light runners. State law now prohibits the ticket cameras.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met this week to discuss a bill that would set up statewide standards for employing the devices. HB4763 covers yellow light timing and fine amounts.

Committee chairman and bill sponsor Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, told lawmakers that local governments should be given control to determine whether the cameras are right for them.

Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, said the ticket cameras provide additional tools to address aggressive driving.

“It would send a clear message that speeding will not be tolerated,” Stallworth testified.

The bill would authorize fines up to $130. No points would be added to driver’s licenses.

A spokesman for the Police Officers Association of Michigan acknowledged that law enforcement knows all too well the need for funding, but Deputy Sergeant Dave LaMontaine questioned the intent of the cameras.

“We have concerns that red-light cameras will become an ATM machine for City Hall,” LaMontaine said.

Rep. Bradford Jacobsen, R-Oxford, suggested lengthening yellow light times as an alternative to reduce red-light violations.

“That seems like a logical way to do it,” Jacobsen told the panel.

Jim Walker, a consultant for the National Motorists Association, told lawmakers that research shows that lengthening yellow times reduces red-light running incidents 60 to 90 percent.

“It will almost always reduce violation rates far more than cameras,” Walker testified.

Rep. Schmidt said he would be open to lengthening yellow times.

“This is a tool and we’d certainly be glad to incorporate it,” he said.

Ron Reagan, a former Florida state lawmaker turned lobbyist for red-light camera companies, cautioned lawmakers about relying on the perceived simple fix. He said that changing the timing at one intersection would affect the timing of other nearby intersections.

The committee didn’t vote on the bill. Rep. Schmidt said it would be brought back for consideration at a later date.

Across the state line in Ohio an effort is underway to ban the use of ticket cameras. The enforcement method is used in 11 communities across the state, including Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo.

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, the bill would apply to red-light and speed cameras.

Hood questions whether use of the technology is simply a “money grab.” He cites research that shows traffic incidents actually increased at intersections posted with cameras.

“That illustrates another unfortunate reality: traffic cameras are often installed as a money grab for local governments,” Hood said in a statement. “The primary purpose of issuing fines should be to punish people who violate the law, not as a source of revenue.”

His bill – HB69 – is in the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers approved a 226-page transportation bill that includes a provision to authorize cities, not judges, to hear challenges from drivers who dispute their camera tickets.

HB7125 would also increase fines for red-light running violations captured on camera. The average ticket now runs about $158 but the bill on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk could result in $408 fines.

It would take effect July 1.

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

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