Turning off red light cameras


Imagine the surprise when you open up the mail and see a $75 red light camera ticket. The state Supreme Court and Texas Governor Abbott are closing in on red light camera systems in dozens of cities across Texas.

State Sen. Don Huffines, working with Gov. Abbott, has requested a formal investigation regarding cities’ unlawful use of red light traffic cameras across the state. According to a report by Jody Barr of KXAN, multiple cities across Texas are disregarding state law regarding the installation red light cameras. The law had one major requirement before a city could install a red light camera: the city must perform a traffic engineering study. According to KXAN, only three of the 50 cities in the state of Texas performed this study.

Before the Texas Legislature passed the state’s red light camera law in 2007, there were no rules on how cities could use cameras to fine drivers. Then, cities across the state were scrambling to get in on the new technology, replacing cops with cameras to make money by charging drivers.

Red-light camera programs have caused a debate between supporters who say they reduce T-bone accidents and opponents who say they lead to rear-end collisions when drivers slam on their brakes to avoid tickets.

“The cameras, which take photos of vehicles that run red lights, are expensive and increase rear-end accidents according to multiple studies,” Sen. Huffines said. “They are just a money-making scheme for cities to gain revenue.”

You can find a red light camera on a few of the corners in University Park, but the adjacent Highland Park has none. Highland Park police Lt. Lance Koppa said the city discussed the idea of red-light cameras several years back, but ultimately decided against it.

“There are multiple ways for cities to keep their streets safer, rather than using red light cameras,” Sen. Huffines said. “There have been multiple reports done with third party systems that have increased safety.”

Sen, Huffines’ district in North Texas contains half of the state’s red light cameras. Within Tarrant, Dallas and Denton Counties, there are 29 cities that have red light cameras. KXAN reported that the cameras in those three counties have nabbed $324 million of the $537 million total collected by cities using red light cameras since 2008.

“If the citizens were allowed to vote on keeping or removing the red light cameras, the majority would vote to remove them,” Sen. Huffines said. “No one likes the red light cameras, and the decision needs to be put in the hands of the voters.”