Action on ticket cameras pursued in 15 states
March 2, 2022
While new federal guidance authorizes states to tap billions for roadway safety programs, state lawmakers throughout the nation are pursuing rules on the use of automated ticket cameras.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last month unveiled plans to address a record increase in traffic deaths on the nation’s highways. Automated cameras were included among the tools identified to aid reducing fatalities.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s national roadway safety strategy addresses the administration’s goal for the program.
“Automated speed enforcement, if deployed equitably and applied appropriately to roads with the greatest risk of harm due to speeding, can provide significant safety benefits and save lives.”
Issue addressed in at least 15 statehouses
Time will tell how much the new federal guidance affects statehouse actions in favor of or in opposition to the use of automated enforcement cameras.
More than 500 communities around the country employ the use of red-light and/or speed cameras to nab drivers who disobey traffic rules, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports.
Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the focus on the revenue-generating ticket cameras ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic: keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible.
Below is a rundown of recent statehouse activity on the topic.
About a dozen cities around the state of Alabama use red-light cameras and/or speed cameras. The list includes the cities of Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Selma.
The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to add the city of Birmingham to the list.
Sponsored by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, SB237 would allow the state’s second-largest city to use red-light cameras and speed cameras. Violators would face fines starting at $60.
The bill has moved to the House.
Identical bills in both chambers of the Arizona Legislature have died that called for prohibiting the use of photo enforcement on state roadways.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports that photo enforcement is available to 13 communities around the state.
Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, has highlighted her concern about city governments using the devices as money makers for her pursuit of statute to forbid photo enforcement. The rule would have applied to a local authority and state agency.
One California Assembly bill would expand the state’s authority to use automated enforcement.
The Golden State already authorizes the use of red-light cameras. The ticketing tool is used in more than 30 areas around the state. Speed cameras, however, are prohibited in the state.
AB2336 would set up a five-year pilot program to utilize speed enforcement cameras in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, and the city and county of San Francisco.
Fines would range from $50 to $500 for offenders found exceeding the post speed by more than 10 mph. No points would be added to an offender’s license.
Supporters say use of the enforcement tool makes travel safer. They add that it reduces police interactions with drivers while maintaining driver accountability.
Sponsored by Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, the bill awaits consideration in committee.
A Florida bill is likely dead for the year that would ban municipalities from using red-light cameras to issue citations.
There are 47 local governments around the state operating 485 red-light ticket cameras, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Fine amounts of $158 are dispensed for actions that include turning right on red, failing to come to a complete stop, or crossing the line where a camera is focused on an intersection.
Numbers available from the agency show that municipalities statewide have sent out nearly 1 million notices of violation in fiscal year 2020-2021.
Additionally, the state’s numbers show the total crashes occurring at intersections before and after red-light cameras has increased. The number of fatal crashes, however, has decreased.
Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, has introduced a bill to repeal the program permitting use of the ticket tool. Locales with programs already in place would be required to remove the devices by July 2025.
He has introduced legislation to kill the program in each of the previous four legislative sessions.
Sabatini has cited the program’s failure to improve driving behavior for his repeated attempts to repeal the law.
His bill, HB6029, has remained in committee since January.
Multiple bills at the Illinois statehouse intended to rein in use of automated enforcement programs are likely dead for the year.
There are 68 locales around the states that use red-light cameras, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports. The city of Chicago has red-light cameras and speed cameras. Additionally, speed cameras are permitted in work zones.
Sponsored by Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, HB4102 would allow citizens to challenge red-light camera citations.
Mazzochi cited corruption concerns with automated enforcement programs. She highlights the prosecution of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval who allegedly accepted bribes for pursing adoption of red-light camera enforcement.
Her bill would allow drivers cited for red-light camera citations to challenge the tickets in court if the cameras in question are “associated with civil or criminal corruption charges.”
“When the placement of a red-light camera has nothing to do with safety, but involve a cynical revenue grab inextricably linked to public corruption, individuals should have the right to protest them in court, and judges should be empowered to reject these tickets,” Mazzochi said in a recent news release.
She added that over a 10-year period municipalities around the state have reportedly collected over $1 billion from red-light cameras.
Another bill, SB3423, would repeal authority for local governments to use red-light cameras.
One Indiana bill moving through the statehouse covers the use of ticket cameras along certain stretches of roadway throughout the state.
State law now authorizes fines between $300 and $1,000 for speeding in work zones. Statute does not allow nor prohibit the use of speed cameras.
A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill shows an average of 1,800 guilty verdicts in Indiana were entered for speeding in a work zone annually over the past six years.
Sponsored by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, SB179 would authorize the use of cameras in highway work zones to enforce speeds.
Fines of up to $150 would be authorized for exceeding the posted speed in work zones by at least 11 mph. Highway workers would be required to be present when a speeding violation occurred.
The House Roads and Transportation Committee has voted to advance the bill. Senators approved the bill early last month.
An Iowa Senate bill addresses concerns about the use of automatic ticket cameras in more than a dozen communities across the state.
SF2352 would require speed violations to exceed 20 mph over the posted speed to warrant an automated citation. Fine revenue collected by an agency would be capped at 250% of all municipal infraction and scheduled fines from traffic citations in the previous fiscal year.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted to advance the bill for further consideration.
A Kentucky Senate bill would bring red-light cameras to the state.
Sponsored by Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, the bill would authorize the use of automated devices to be posted at intersections to snap photos of vehicles running red lights.
Violators would face $50 fines.
SB19 is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
In Maryland, two bills cover the use of traffic control device monitoring systems.
There are six counties around the state that have red-light camera programs. The city of Baltimore and 22 other jurisdictions use the devices. Violators face fines up to $100.
HB151 would expand statute to let local authorities use red-light ticket cameras. Fines would be up to $40.
A signage requirement is included in the bill.
Advocates say that automated enforcement would relieve the requirement for police officers to be present to hand out tickets to violators.
The second bill, HB1071, is intended to limit vehicle stops. Specifically, the bill would mandate that a device display vehicle speeds along stretches of highway with a monitoring system.
Pursuit at the Michigan statehouse would authorize automated speed enforcement in certain areas.
Permission would be given to the Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Transportation, county commissioners, or other local authority having jurisdiction over a highway or street to utilize automated enforcement.
First-time offenders would receive a written warning in the mail. Repeat offenders would face a fine up to $150.
A separate Senate bill would go the other way on the topic.
Sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, SB875 would prohibit municipalities from installing red-light cameras.
“Red-light cameras are not about motorist safety. They are cynical revenue grabs, often riddled with corruption with no benefit for the greater good,” Theis said in a news release. “Red-light cameras are the definition of government overreach, and we should keep them off our streets.”
One Minnesota state lawmaker wants to prohibit the use of speed cameras.
The state already outlaws the use of red-light cameras.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, cites new federal guidance on automated ticket cameras for his pursuit on speed cameras.
HF3317 would forbid township, city, county, or state agencies from utilizing the technology.
A Missouri House bill would ban local and state agencies from reaching deals to permit red-light or speed cameras.
Effective Aug. 8, HB2705 would prohibit use of the devices. Communities with camera systems already in place would have one year to complete the termination of contracts. At that time, they would be required to comply with changes in the legislation.
One New York Senate bill would authorize red-light cameras to be posted at 10% of the intersections in New York City.
The city’s red-light camera program has been in place since 1994. The program has been extended eight times and has a July 1, 2022, sunset date.
There are 150 intersections throughout the city with cameras posted.
Sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-Brooklyn, S8328 would renew the program for another seven years. Additionally, the number of intersections in the city with photo enforcement ticket cameras would be increased to 1,325.
Gounardes said in a bill memo the vast majority of the city’s 13,250 intersections must rely solely on police officers to witness violations to hand out citations. He adds that the extension and expansion of the program would aid the city’s pursuit of safety improvements.
There are 11 cities in Oregon, including Portland, where photo radar is permitted on segments of roads.
A 2021 state law authorized all cities with populations of at least 50,000 to use speed cameras. The change affects about a dozen locales.
Oregon statute requires police to review potential violations. Tickets are issued for violators that exceed the posted speed by more than 10 mph.
One bill approved by the Legislature and headed to the governor would relax the requirement for police to review potential violations. Instead, HB4105 would allow “trained staff” other than police officers to review camera photos.
Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Happy Valley, told members of the House Rules Committee the change would help agencies that often have open positions and need officers to work overtime to review potential violations.
Reardon highlighted plans in Portland to expand the city’s photo radar program. He said the cost of the program will be increased if officers are required to review potential violations.
One failed bill in the Washington House called for expanding the state’s use of automated enforcement.
State law allows the use of speed cameras in school zones.
Sponsored by House Transportation Chairman Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, HB1969 sought to authorize cities to operate at least one speed camera outside of school zones. One additional camera could be posted outside school zones for every 10,000 residents.
One provision in the bill required cameras to be placed “in a manner that limits drivers from diverting to alternative roads to avoid them.”
Fine revenue would be evenly split between the state and locales where the violation occurred.
Fey told the House Transportation Committee the bill is one way to address an increase in deaths on roadways and a shortage of patrol officers.
Critics question whether the intent of the legislation is to address safety concerns or to raise as much revenue as possible.
In West Virginia, the House Judiciary Committee has voted to move a bill to allow speed cameras in work zones.
HB4595 is focused on multiple-lane highways with a posted speed of 55 mph or more when workers are present.
Violators would receive a written warning in the mail if they are exceeding the posted speed by more than 10 mph. A repeat offense would result in a $75 fine.
The bill awaits further House consideration. LL
More state trends
Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.