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States, Cities Debate Use of Traffic Cameras

August 23, 2006

Judges, angry motorists and some sympathetic state lawmakers are coming down on Ohio cities that use high-tech cameras to catch drivers who speed and run red lights, according to the Associated Press.A judge in northeast Ohio ruled this summer that a camera program used to catch speeders was unconstitutional and ordered the city to stop using it. A driver later sued Toledo, saying a $95 ticket she got for running a red light was improper because, among other things, no police officer was present as a witness. Also looming is a bill pending in the Senate that would heavily regulate installation and use of the cameras. Critics say the bill violates a city's home-rule authority, and the provision requiring an officer to be present is cost-prohibitive because it duplicates services.Public safety officials in Columbus are against restricting or removing the cameras. The city began using cameras at four intersections in March to catch drivers who run red lights. The number of citations fell from 1,408 to less than 700 over five months, the Associated Press reports. While about 200 U.S. cities have the cameras in use, at least two states—Wisconsin and New Jersey—have banned them, and the National Motorists Association opposes their use, saying intersections could be made safer by lengthening yellow lights and improving lane markings. Supporters point to the Federal Highway Administration, which studied the use of red-light cameras at 132 intersections in seven cities for a 2005 report. The cameras reduced front and side crashes by 25 percent. However, the same report noted a 15 percent increase in rear-end crashes.
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