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So long, red light cameras

Like ’em or not, they’re on their way out, barring a veto from Greg Abbott.

Going, going…

The Republican-led push to rid Texas intersections of red-light cameras moved one step closer to becoming law after the state Senate signed off on a measure with that aim Friday, sending the bill to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

House Bill 1631 cleared the chamber on a 23-8 vote after several back-and-forths among senators about studies that both support and challenge the efficacy of the devices when it comes to promoting safer streets. The Senate left in place a key provision to allow local governments to continue operating cameras until they finish out any contracts in effect as of May 7.

“Red-light cameras violate the right to due process guaranteed under Article 1 of the Texas Constitution by creating a presumption that the registered owner of the car committed a violation when in fact that may not have been the case,” said state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who is sponsoring the legislation originally offered by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

Many city officials and local law enforcement officials oppose the legislation, arguing that cameras reduce deadly accidents and bring in revenue for trauma care centers and local governments. Gesturing toward a binder with 25 studies that suggest the opposite, Hall fended off questions from fellow senators who asked about the potential loss of revenue, particularly the dollars that go to trauma care centers, from fines on drivers who run red lights.

I am officially retired from the business of arguing about red light cameras. I have come to the conclusion that the available data is just simply insufficient to answer the basic questions about their efficacy. You either believe they’re a common sense tool to discourage and penalize running red lights, or you believe they’re an unacceptable infringement on freedom. (You may also think that the contracts cities sign with camera providers are highly sketchy and will lead to cities becoming dependent on the revenue the cameras generate, with the accompanying incentive to mess with yellow light times to maintain the cash flow.) I’m sure I’d have some feelings about this if Houston still had its cameras, but this is the one incursion on local control this session that does not directly affect us. I guess I’m glad that unlike cable franchise fees, the Lege saw fit this time to allow cities that were affected some time to make adjustments.

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3 Comments

  1. Bill_Daniels says:

    Excellent news. And for the cities bemoaning the loss of revenue? Suck it up, Nancy. Maybe you shouldn’t have tried to balance your budgets on the backs of motorists. You know who else did that? Ferguson, Missouri. While the ‘gentle giant’ story fell apart quickly, that episode did expose what was going on, that people were being shaken down for traffic ticket money there, that it was less about safety and more about revenue. Hmm. Red light cameras are exactly that.

    Waiting to hear from Kubosh on this.

  2. Ross says:

    So, the idiots who oppose traffic light safety win another one using specious arguments about unfairness to the car owner if someone else was driving, and inability to confront your accuser. Well, give up the person who was driving, and there’s no problem, and the camera footage is pretty damn clear. The only changes required were to eliminate the vendor gets a percentage contracts, and require reasonable length yellows. I am sick and tired of people running red lights with no consequences. And don’t give me the old police can write tickets BS, because there aren’t enough of them patrolling to make a difference.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    It is good to see them gone. I am not going to debate them here. I just find it ironic that the same people who are voting them out now were the same people who voted them in. Maybe BETO scared the Republicans and they are trying to take a more populist position.