By on January 17, 2012

The most senior Texas state lawmaker admitted last week that he voted to save red light camera programs even though he knew they had no effect on public safety.

State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), who was first elected to the legislature in 1973, appeared on KTRH radio’s morning news program to discuss how public opposition to red light cameras persuaded legislators to devote some of the camera profit to trauma centers.

“People went to Austin protesting it, and so John Carona — a senator from Dallas — didn’t want to eliminate them,” Whitmire explained. “He said, you know, it’s obviously a revenue source. Local communities try to sell it as public safety, cutting down on red light running. He and I and I think most people would realize it’s really a revenue source. John Carona in Austin said, I’m not going to eliminate but let the state have half of that revenue dedicated to trauma care which is badly underfunded.”

Though the money was promised to trauma care centers, over $4.1 million of this money has remained in the state’s general fund and not been distributed to the trauma centers.

“The budget writers in an effort to find resources and money to balance the budget never sent that,” Whitmire explained. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”

Whitmire played an essential role in 2005 in blocking House legislation that would have banned red light cameras as well as an amendment that would have forced municipalities to obtain voter approval before instituting a red light camera program. The Senate voted 18 to 13 to against the referendum requirement. Whitmire explained that the mayor of Houston, a fellow Democrat, had pressed him for that vote.

“Bill White came to Austin and he had two issues,” Whitmire said. “The next vote that came up was to try to repeal red light cameras. The vote was whether we’d take that away from the cities. And I don’t think Austin ought to be trying to run the cities on a day-to-day basis.”

Houston’s cameras were ultimately shut down, but only after a heated legal and political battle. A federal judge even intervened to overturn the results of a public vote on the matter.

“It is a bad deal and the people acted on it and repealed it,” Whitmire said. “The issue of red light cameras, I was always suspect about it. I never thought it was about public safety. The greatest number of red light citations are issued to people who don’t come to a complete stop on turning right or similar violations. It’s a civil ticket, that shows you how insincere they are about it.”

This article courtesy of

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9 Comments on “Texas: Top State Senator Says Red Light Cameras About Money...”

  • avatar

    You are found to be naked!
    Now – begone from our sight and never return!

  • avatar

    Austin could defund other activities to support the trauma centers and free health care proxy it provides instead of fleecing motorists but this provides the cover of public safety > good cause. Just like tobacco taxes are spent on health care costs, right?

  • avatar
    George B

    In my home city of Plano, TX red light cameras appear to be placed where they will generate the most revenue. They are placed at poorly designed intersections where the roadway is offset, the distance across the intersection is unusually long, the light timing is wrong, or something is obstructing the view of oncoming traffic. Then the damn stop bars are painted way back from the intersection to catch people rolling through the paint while making a safe right turn on red. The goal appears to be to catch the motorist in violation of rules independent of safety. The fine is set at the revenue optimized level of $75 with no points/insurance penalty so people just pay instead of fight.

  • avatar

    Thank goodness they don’t have these cameras where I live, but I travel for work and I am always parnoid about them. My opinion is it is all about the cash and the safety factor is bogus.

  • avatar

    Ever get the feeling Texas politicians are getting a little bit overzealous?

    Ron Paul and Rick Perry for President
    This guy with cameras
    The SOPA and PIPA Internet legislation in a Texas Republican’s idea.

    • 0 avatar

      And I love the irony of paying for trauma centers from fleecing the people from a state who threatened to secede from the US due to “Obamacare” and socialism.

  • avatar

    The issue I have with Red Light Cameras is not the fact that if you blow a red light you deserve a ticket (you broke the dayam law) regardless if you got your picture taken or an actual cop catches you. The issue I have is the politicians will change the light settings to unfairly more things to make sure they provide more tickets – that is the outrage. By using short handed tactics to unfairly increase red light tickets by shortening yellow lights, configuring them to purposely change where it increases the chance for someone not to make the light, etc.

    Add to the fact that we put traffic lights at every intersection when most of the time they are not needed – a simple, cheap round about will suffice for most intersections – also significantly decreasing the amount of fatalities (I’ve seen some pretty bad t bone accidents from traffic lights – 55mph versions); versus what a bad round about accident of 25mph (because you can’t go any faster through it!). Which accident do you want to be in?

  • avatar
    Rollo Grande

    As if any senator receives (or pays) traffic tickets. Keep up the good work Whitmire, we know you’ve got our best interests at heart.

  • avatar

    Cameras give a false sense of safety, because even with a $500 fine (Calif.) they can’t stop the real late running which is unintentional and occurs when someone is lost, distracted, confused or impaired. The mere presence of a camera can’t stop the real late runners because the runners don’t know (a tourist), or don’t remember, that there’s a camera up ahead.

    To stop them, improve the visual cues that say “Intersection ahead.” Florida’s DOT found that pavement markings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signals brighter, bigger, add backboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the intersection. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at signals, and lighted name signs for the cross streets.

    Who needs cameras? But even with cameras, do the visual cues. They are cheap to do so can be done citywide, unlike cameras which are expensive, ineffective against the real late runners, increase rearenders, drive shoppers/tourists away, and send local money to Oz, AZ or NY (Goldman-Sachs) where it won’t come back.

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