Texas bills would axe ticket cameras, 'bad driver' fines

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, December 12, 2014

After one year off Texas lawmakers have wasted little time filing bills for consideration for the upcoming regular session.

One issue that could get attention once the regular session starts next month addresses the use of automated enforcement throughout the state.

Twelve states prohibit the use of speed cameras and nine states prohibit the use of red-light cameras, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. Twelve states use speed cameras operating in at least one location while 24 states use red-light cameras.

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are 62 communities throughout Texas that employ red-light cameras. At least six towns have outlawed use of automated ticketing programs.

Rep. Jonathon Stickland, R-Bedford, has filed a bill that would eliminate the ability for any city in Texas to work out deals to set up red-light and speed camera enforcement. HB142 would not affect contracts in place as of June 1, 2015.

Another issue likely to be addressed in the session that begins Jan. 13 is the state’s driver responsibility program.

Since its inception in 2003, drivers who are ticketed for not having insurance are supposed to pay an additional $250 annually for three years. Driving without a license results in an annual $100 extra charge.

Other offenses, such as repeat drunken driving violations, result in additional fines up to $1,500 for three years. Driving with a blood-alcohol content level at least twice the legal limit, 0.08 percent, is a $2,000 annual surcharge.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has filed a bill, SB93, to repeal the state law that set up the program.

Critics say the program has failed to live up to the goals set by state lawmakers, which include deterring drunk drivers, not carrying insurance, driving without a license and committing other violations.

Instead, they say the fines are too high and many affected motorists have simply dropped their driver’s licenses and are now driving without insurance.

Supporters of the program say the best way to avoid having to pay a surcharge is to not commit the crime.

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