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Red light camera bills pass out of Senate

The Carona bill, which would limit the revenue cities can collect on tickets generated by red light cameras, has passed the Senate.

The provision requiring cities to spend some of the resulting revenue on trauma care and traffic safety is intended to discourage use of the cameras as a municipal revenue windfall.

“We ought to ensure cities don’t use them as money-makers. We are taking some of the financial incentive away,” said Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who chairs the Transportation & Homeland Security Committee and sponsored the legislation.

“Most cities were not eager to share their money. But when faced with the reality that some members wanted to outlaw them altogether, they realized this was the best option on the table.”

Senate Bill 125 limits the amount of money cities can keep to the cost of maintaining and operating red-light cameras.

The rest must be split evenly between traffic safety and a regional trauma account, so money stays in the area where it is collected. Notes accompanying the bill did not estimate how much money might be involved.

[…]

A second measure, Senate Bill 1199, gives cities the legislative authority to operate red-light cameras. It prohibits contracts between cities and vendors that base compensation on the number of citations issued. And it requires cities to study intersections’ traffic volume, collision history and frequency of red-light violations before installing cameras.

There were several attempts to gut Carona’s bills. He said he expects the legislation to have an equally rough time in the House, where the Urban Affairs Committee has left several red-light camera bills pending until the Senate acted.

Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, is sponsoring a bill that combines the two by Carona.

As far as I know, the city of Houston already meets most if not all of the criteria Carona lays out. I believe the main effect of this bill if it goes the distance would be to moot the Kubosh lawsuit, since cities would then quite clearly have the authority to install cameras and issue fines via their use. Since the leading opponent of red light cameras is Rep. Carl Isett, who has a bill filed to outlaw them, Carona’s measures may or may not make it through. There will certainly be a fight if and when they come up for a floor vote. Stay tuned.

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One Comment

  1. Unfortunately Senator Corona’s bills, SB 125 and 1199, add legitimacy to the red-light camera scam. Rep. Jim Murphy is seconding this travesty that resembles a bunch of thieves arguing over how to divide the loot.

    Here are the engineering points that are being ignored in Houston:

    1. It has been shown that 85% of red light violations occur in less than two seconds after the light has changed from amber to red. I believe the primary cause of these violations is inaccuracy on the part of most drivers to properly guess both time and distance from the intersection when the light changes.

    At 35 MPH the amber period is supposed to be 3.6 seconds. A driver whose vehicle is 183.8 feet from the intersection when the light changes from green to amber has one second to gently apply the brakes and bring his or her vehicle to a normal (decelerating at 10 feet per second per second) stop. A driver whose vehicle is less than this distance when the light turns amber should continue at 35 MPH because the light will still be amber when he or she reaches the intersection and an increased stopping rate also increases the risk of a rear end collision.

    According to Sergeant Muench, HPD only a 0.1 second period is allowed for the light to change from amber to red. After that, a driver whose vehicle enters the intersection is deemed to be in violation of the red light. At 35 MPH 0.2 seconds equals one foot of distance. In other words, if you misjudge your distance by one foot and you continue at 35 MPH when the light turns amber, your mistake will cost you $75. If in doubt the City of Houston wants you to either slam on your brakes or budget for a $75 expense in the near future. And if you guess your distance correctly this time you get a chance to play the game again at the next red-light camera intersection. What a nice game!

    2. It has been proven that an increase in rear-end collisions takes place soon after photo enforcement is implemented.

    3. At standard eight-way intersections it is very unlikely that a t-bone collision will occur within two seconds after the light turns red. Stopped vehicles can not accelerate fast enough for this to be a common accident. Most t-bone collisions are caused by drivers who are completely oblivious to a red light which has been illuminated for more than two seconds.

    A notable exception to Point 3 occurs where the crossing street is one-way and has synchronized lights that provide for rolling greens. This permits vehicles on the one-way street to proceed through numerous intersections without stopping. In these cases it is possible for a t-bone collision to take place within two seconds after the light change, however only four of the present 40 cameras in Houston are located at these types of intersections.

    4. I have proposed a simple solution to the city council that will end the $75 guessing game being imposed upon Houston drivers. My proposal calls for a yellow stopping distance line to be placed across the approach to all photo enforced traffic lights. This line would indicate to drivers when a traffic light changes from green to amber whether it was safe to proceed through the intersection at the speed limit without violating the red light; or to come to a normal gentle stop. My proposal has so far been totally ignored.

    Now I make no claim to be a traffic engineer. I wish I could find one who would be willing to vouch for all this.