The Tennessee House Transportation Committee yesterday drafted a legislative proposal that will solidify the legal standing for the use of both speed cameras and red light cameras in the state. After a lengthy markup process, committee members approved a two-year moratorium on new cameras while ensuring that there is no disruption in ticketing for cities like Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jonesborough and Knoxville that already have programs in place. In 2008, the state legislature quietly gave the green light to jurisdictions interested in installing red light cameras and speed cameras, but even the lawmakers most in favor of the use of cameras have been pressured by the public to take some action to reign in their use.
Accidents rose after the installation of a red light camera at one major intersection in Baytown, Texas. The private company American Traffic Solutions began issuing automated tickets at the intersection of Garth and Baker Roads on March 21, 2008. Since then, safety has not improved at the controversial camera location.
According to a brochure published by the city, “red light safety cameras” were installed because, “There have been more than 1,000,000 accidents and more than 1000 deaths attributed to red light runners that occur each year in the United States.” Presumably, the cameras are meant to reduce the number of collisions and deaths at Baytown intersections.
This has not happened according to accident reports from all three monitored approaches of the Garth and Baker intersection from eighteen months before the installation of cameras compared to the same period afterward. Instead, the total number of collisions grew by 11 percent. Although proponents of cameras frequently suggest that the increase in rear end collisions (31 percent in this case) is offset by the reduction in “more serious” collisions, the data show, to the contrary, that there was no reduction at all in the number of serious injury accidents.
A judge yesterday forced the settlement of a traffic camera company-backed lawsuit with the city of College Station, Texas over the public’s November 3 vote to ban red light cameras. Although terms of the deal have not been released, the city council voted 4-0 on November 11 to abide by the results of the election, leaving American Traffic Solutions (ATS) with no hope of continuing its ticketing program without a costly legal battle.
Though New York’s new “Empire Gold” license plates aren’t opening the same constitutional can of worms as South Carolina’s recently-rejected “I Believe” plates, they’re still generating some feisty political opposition. By next April, every licensed vehicle in the state will have to switch to the new plates, at $25 a pop. That’s ten bucks more per plate than the previous models, and keeping your previous number or vanity plate will cost an additional $20. The switch is estimated to raise $129m for the state, which is currently facing a $5b budget shortfall. But according to Newsday, some 57,000 New Yorkers have signed a petition at nonewplates.com, expressing their displeasure with the new plates and their fees. Best of all, the new plates will mean new jobs for 120 inmates in New York’s penal system. The inmates will be paid 42 cents per hour to produce the plates.