Chicago, Houston, College Station, Lubbock. The number of cities actively fighting or banning red-light camera ticketing programs is growing.
A 21-page report listing U.S. cities with red-light or speeding camera programs is about 200 cities shorter than its original spike several years ago, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Loss.
The institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing highway crash deaths, injuries and property damage losses.
A total of 501 red-light camera programs are in effect nationwide today, with 62 in Texas cities, including Killeen, which initiated the program in 2008.
The reasons and rationale behind municipalities cutting back on the well-debated red-light camera programs vary, but activists argue the program violates the law in multiple ways, including lack of due process.
“I think really what’s happening is that more and more citizens of those cities and states are speaking out against red-light cameras. ... They’re seeing them for what they are, just a way for cities to make money,” said John Bowman, spokesman for the National Motorist Association, a grassroots organization created to represent the interest of North American motorists.
One issue, he said, is the fact the cameras do not catch actual drivers in the act of running red lights, just the vehicles, so the owner of the vehicles are ticketed.
“It’s then up to the vehicle owner to admit he did it, or incriminate the other person,” he said.
Bowman said some cities experienced class-action lawsuits from residents, not to mention lawsuits and fines from camera service providers if contracts are broken prematurely.
Houston, which installed cameras in 2006 and then “uninstalled” them in 2011 after a council vote, paid more than $12 million to American Traffic Solutions, its service provider, to break the contract three years early.
Waco delayed installation of red-light cameras until officials see what the Texas Legislature will do.
In 2013, the Texas Campaign for Liberty put forth a petition asking state lawmakers to ban red-light cameras, but the measure didn’t gain sufficient support during the last legislative session.
In Lubbock, red-light cameras only lasted a year before council members voted to remove them in 2008.
In Chicago, a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed unexplained spikes in the city’s camera-based tickets since 2007.
Many of the city’s aldermen said the tickets were “obviously fraudulent,” according to an Associated Press report.
Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the city would start sending out letters to at least 9,000 drivers with details of the review process to determine whether the city will send them $100 refunds for red-light camera citations issued during the unexplained spikes in tickets.
Redflex, the red-light camera provider for Killeen and Chicago, among other cities, spent millions in legal costs after its top executives were indicted in a bribery scandal with Chicago officials in 2013.
After the bribery allegations came to light earlier this year, Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said the city has had a working relationship with Redflex since 2007 and “has not experienced any improprieties.”
Jodi Ryan, a spokesman for Redflex, told the Herald that considering crash, severity and citation data, both annually and over a three-year period, it can be concluded the Redflex system has made a difference and therefore appears to be a viable safety tool at the intersections with three-year data.
Ryan said a 22-community study done in 2011 by the Texas Transportation Institute showed Redflex cameras yielded reductions in traffic crashes.
Several studies found the cameras can reduce so-called T-bone accidents but also may increase rear-end collisions.
Researchers with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute recently analyzed data from 32 Texas cities and found that T-bone crashes declined 24 percent while rear-end collisions increased 37 percent at intersections that had the cameras installed.
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