The Washington Court of Appeals yesterday delivered a big win to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the photo enforcement firm that has fought hard to prevent the public from voting on red light cameras and speed cameras. A three-judge panel overturned last month’s decision by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig that had found the ATS suit was specifically crafted to block public access to the ballot.
The appellate judges sided with ATS, which argued Bellingham residents have no right to decide whether or not automated ticketing machines can be used in their city.
Voters in at least seven cities will soon have a chance to decide whether to prohibit the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Initiatives are being certified for the ballot in five states across the country, despite an all-out effort by photo ticketing firms to block any public role in the matter. Early voting is already underway in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the October 4 municipal election.
“Shall the Albuquerque city council continue authorizing the ‘Safe Traffic Operations Program,’ commonly called the ‘red light camera program’?” the city ballot asks.
In the past five years, five Ohio cities have voted to ban photo enforcement, and two more might be added to the list. The Cuyahoga County Board Of Elections is now counting signatures from residents in South Euclid and East Cleveland who are determined to prohibit automated ticketing in November. On August 3, organizers in East Cleveland handed in 1624 signatures, well more than the 358 needed to qualify in the city of 18,000. South Euclid activists turned in 1076 signatures on July 25. (Read More…)
The auditor general for New South Wales, Australia last month issued a report on speed camera use in the state. The Liberal Party government had ordered the review after it took power at the end of March. Following the results, thirty-eight camera locations have been taken offline.
As with the like-minded Conservative Party in the UK, NSW Liberals did not set out not to end the use of photo enforcement which generated 371,015 tickets worth $58,117,038 last year. Instead, the party’s leaders are taking steps reduce the number of cameras and reverse the ruling Labor Party policies that kept safety, operational and revenue data for individual cameras a closely guarded secret. No effort had been made to evaluate the program since 2005.
Voters in Bellingham, Washington are likely to have the final say in whether or not to continue using red light cameras and speed cameras. A Whatcom County Superior Court judge yesterday threw out the attempt by photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to immediately block the measure from being considered. The court believes ATS has an uphill battle to prove its case.
“ATS has not demonstrated that it will suffer immediate and irreparable injury if the temporary restraining order is not granted,” Judge Steven Mura ruled. “ATS’s motion for a temporary restraining order is denied.”
The one man most responsible for the spread of red light cameras in the United States is now enjoying the fruit of his labor. Richard A. Retting was New York City’s deputy assistant commissioner for traffic safety programs as the Big Apple considered becoming the first in the US to operate intersection cameras. Planning for the program began in 1983 and continued through 1991 when then-Mayor David Dinkins activated the system. For this achievement, Retting was dubbed the father of the red light camera in America, and today he is earning money directly from the systems that have followed New York’s lead. (Read More…)
Drivers who pass a photo radar location frequently drop their speed far below the legal limit to be absolutely certain no citation will come in the mail weeks later. In response, officials in Valencia, Spain have begun issuing photo tickets to drivers who are moving “too slow.” Motorist Jesus Llorens received just such ticket in the mail on June 14 for sluggish driving past a camera in an Opel Vectra. The alleged offense happened in February at 11am in the tunnel of the Avenida del Cid.
The UK government on Sunday officially terminated the policy of concealing safety and revenue information for individual speed camera locations. The Labour government had held this information secret, but Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, a member of the Conservative Party, insisted on making it readily available to the public online.
“We want to improve accountability and make sure that the public are able to make informed judgments about the decisions made on their behalf,” Penning said in a statement. “So if taxpayers’ money is being spent on speed cameras then it is right that information about their effectiveness is available to the public.”
A November study by the University of Adelaide recommended that a commission be established to review the placement and use of speed cameras in South Australia. Last month, the state parliament rejected any suggestion that policies relating to automated ticketing could be questioned.
As part of a parliamentary internship program, a research report reviewed existing research and applied the findings to the road safety situation in South Australia. The results were provided to Ivan Venning, a Liberal Party member of House of Assembly, who attempted on May 19 to win approval for a select committee to examine the use and effectiveness of photo enforcement. During debate, Venning pointed out several other states were currently conducting reviews of their own.
Today’s sign of the times comes courtesy of the world of social media, and calls into question some of our most basic assumptions about the world of cars. France, it seems, experienced a 12.8% increase in on-road fatalities in the first quarter of this year, and the New York Times reports that the French government is responding by banning devices that scan the road ahead for speed camera radar waves.
A decade ago, the death rate on French roads was among the worst in Europe, and the government reacted in 2002 with what some drivers called repressive tactics. Radar cameras were erected at intersections throughout the country, which captured a motorist’s license plate if the car surpassed the speed limit by more than 5 kilometers an hour (3 m.p.h.), deducted points off a motorist’s license and sent a fine through the mail.
The measures were deemed successful. The International Transport Forum said France achieved a reduction of 47 percent in its road-death toll in the first decade of the century, relative to the 1990s. The ministerial report said the average speed in France also dropped 10 kilometers an hour since 2002, or 11.7 percent.
The radar cameras, however, spawned a thriving market in radar-warning devices. According to AFFTAC, 5.1 million drivers in France use them. Under the new law, users would face fines of up to 1,500 euros, or about $2,100.
The French government’s decision to not only ban radar detectors, but also to remove signs warning motorists of fixed radar cameras has generated some serious backlash. Apparently over 80,000 people “liked” the Facebook page of AFFTAC, a group opposing the measures and calling for nationwide protests, over the course of two days. By comparison, the most optimistic count of hand-raisers for a possible future Chevy El Camino is “possibly as high as 18,000 people.” Call us crazy, but we thought America’s oft-cited “love affair with the automobile” would have created some slightly different results.