Legislators seek to ban red light traffic cameras

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Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban red light cameras throughout the state.  

SB 714, which state Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) authored, will prohibit all red light cameras throughout the state because he said they violate the constitutional rights of individuals to be able to talk with the person who witnesses the violation. If the bill passes the House, it will go into effect in September.

Throughout the bill, Hall cited a study which claimed that the presence of cameras didn’t contribute to safer roads.

Austin currently has 10 intersections with active red light cameras, which helps Austin Police Department officers patrol intersections, APD Lt. Robert Richman said.

“The red light cameras that we have assist us because we don’t have enough officers to be able to be out at every single intersection monitoring it 24/7,” Richman said. 

People run red lights at all times of the day, Richman said.

“In 2014, there were 11,571 citations issued for running red lights at those locations,” Richman said. “If you take a look at that and think about how many of those were issued by officers, about 9,000 of those were issued by officers. Running red lights is probably the third-highest factor besides impairment and speeding that we have in serious injuries and fatal crashes.”

There are no red light cameras on campus at this time, but with heavy foot traffic, pedestrians still have to worry about people running lights, UTPD officer William Pieper said.

“On a college campus, my first thought is the safety of pedestrians,” Pieper said. “When you look at the red lights that are around campus, typically there’s a great deal of college students who are crossing those intersections on foot, and when a vehicle fails to stop or yield at a red light, … that could be very devastating for the pedestrian.”        

Since the red light camera implementation in Austin in 2008, 2.6 million people have ran the lights, Richman said.

Petroleum engineering freshman Sean Moore said the cameras should stay in place, even though he initially thought the bill would be good.

“I honestly think in some ways, red light cameras — they prevent people running them,” Moore said. “It would be nice to say that we’re not being monitored and give drivers more freedom, but the reality of it is that you need some more enforcement of red lights. … And cops in cars only go so far.” 

Richman said the entire idea of the cameras is to help officers keep intersections safe.

“I wasn’t a huge proponent of the red light cameras at first either because I didn’t think that they would be that helpful because you can’t have somebody there witnessing it,” Richman said. “But I think what we’ve found is that, with traffic, if there are things that you can bring attention to people for them to actually change their behavior, then anything [helps].”