More states are deciding to do away with strategically placed cameras designed to catch offending drivers at intersections nationwide — and giving up significant revenue — over concerns they have the potential to make traffic less safe.
Texas this month became the eighth state to abandon red-light cameras when lawmakers banned them after years of complaints. Many residents have argued they cause more rear-end accidents because they lead drivers to slam on their brakes to avoid being caught on camera. Further, they’ve said, the cameras are illegal, unnecessary and only serve to line government coffers.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the ban June 1, and it will take effect at the start of September.
Texas joins several other states — including Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia — that have put the brakes on red-light cameras.
Some municipalities won’t wait for Sept. 1. Fort Worth said it’s immediately ending its use of the cameras — 58 at 44 intersections — as did Dallas (which had 52) and Southlake, a suburb near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Outstanding citations there, officials said, don’t need to be paid.
“The way our contract was negotiated, a state ban allows us to terminate our contract immediately,” Southlake Mayor Laura Hill said in a Facebook post.
Helwig Van Der Grinten of Sugar Land, near Houston, has been fighting the cameras since they went up 13 years ago.
“I congratulate them. It took them long enough to get to this point,” Van Der Grinten said. “We’re going to have a little celebration here.”
The cameras still are legal in most other states, however, but the founder of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras questions whether they should be. He’s filed a lawsuit attacking the devices’ constitutionality.
His biggest objection is that cameras give tickets for right turns at red lights if the driver doesn’t come to a full stop — even when the intersections are entirely clear. An offending driver would receive a $75 ticket.
“I oppose them in general, but that is certainly the major moneymaker,” he said. “They were getting more right-turn-on-red than the straight-through violations.
“It’s all about money and there are a whole bunch of studies that show that red-light cameras do not reduce accidents.”
Some cities didn’t wait for the new law. Residents in Arlington and Houston had them removed with ballot initiatives. Nearly 60 percent of Arlington voters favored the ban in 2015. Sugar Land residents tried to do the same two years earlier with a ballot petition signed by more than 3,300 people. It was later dismissed and never reached the ballot.