published Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Traffic camera standards eyed

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    Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press One of three traffic cameras at the intersection of Ashland Terrace and Dayton Boulevard in Red Bank records traffic light violations.

NASHVILLE -- Tennessee lawmakers may take another look in the upcoming session at cities' use of traffic cameras to catch speeders and red-light runners.

Lawmakers are discussing guidelines to make sure camera programs boost safety rather than serve as high-tech, money-grabbing "speed traps."

"We've got to have some standards in place that will be statewide and will prohibit some of these companies from setting up 'legal' speed traps," said Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Red Bank is one of about 20 cities in Tennessee that uses traffic cameras. In Hamilton County, Chattanooga also uses the devices.

Last year, Dean, a former Chattanooga police lieutenant, was among lawmakers whose concerns stalled House efforts to enact tough restrictions on photo-enforcement programs.

The measure went nowhere in the state Senate, but interest may be revving up. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, held a hearing last week to explore a Florida program that eliminates the per-ticket fees most camera vendors negotiate in their contracts.

"The camera should be intended for safety and not a revenue boost for the locals and we need to make sure that this is still the top priority," Tracy told colleagues.

The Florida law's sponsor, Republican House Speaker pro tem Ronald Reagan, said it allows local governments to set a flat monthly rate for each intersection, regardless of how many tickets are issued.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield's special assistant, Matt Lea, attended the Tennessee Senate hearing. Later, Lea questioned how a flat-rate contract would affect revenue. He said Chattanooga uses traffic camera revenues to pay for safety programs, including driver education for teens.

"Any time you change the way the percentage is, it could cost more for the city -- the exact number I don't know," Lea said. "If we have to rent the program on a monthly basis, it could probably cost more."

Reagan said similar questions were raised in Florida but camera companies eventually went along and renegotiated their contracts.

An attorney for camera vendor American Traffic Solutions Inc. -- which has the traffic-camera contracts in Red Bank and Chattanooga -- said the per-ticket fee is done "primarily to pay for the equipment and it allows local governments not to foot the bill up front."

Attorney Dale Allen, with Miller & Martin, which represents American Traffic Solutions and also lobbies for the firm, also questioned the legality of legislators interfering with an existing contract. He cited a Tennessee attorney general opinion issued earlier this year that said changes must be "reasonable."

COST OF SAFETY?

In the cities that use traffic cameras, the maximum ticket amount is $50, but court costs can significantly boost the total that motorists must pay. Tickets from cameras don't count against motorists' driving records.

Earlier this year, a state judge dismissed class action suits challenging the constitutionality of Chattanooga's and Red Bank's camera programs.

Chattanooga's red-light and speeding cameras are contracted with LaserCraft, owned by American Traffic Solutions Inc.

In Chattanooga, LaserCraft gets $19.50, or 39 percent, of each $50 red-light traffic ticket issued. The city keeps $30.50.

LaserCraft gets half of each $50 ticket from the mobile speed-camera program and $28, or 56 percent, of each ticket from a fixed traffic-camera site.

Red Bank also contracts with LaserCraft, which gets about 60 percent of the fine for each ticket.

Earlier this year, when the House looked ready to add tough restrictions to camera usage, Red Bank officials extended the LaserCraft contract for 12 years.

New Red Bank Mayor Monty Millard wants to end the program, but breaking the contract could be costly, city officials warn.

Dean disagrees with critics who want to outlaw all speed and traffic cameras, saying "to me, that's throwing the baby out with the bath water."

He cited results since Chattanooga began using speed cameras in 2007 on the once-deadly S curves section of Hixson Pike. There were 10 deaths in the S curves from 2000 to 2004. When the cameras were turned on, crashes plummeted from 20 in 2006 to four last year. The number of tickets issued in the curves dropped from 1,878 in June 2007 to 340 in November 2009.

During last week's state Senate hearing, Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, listened to a presentation by Chattanooga Police Capt. David Roddy on the city's camera-enforcement program.

Berke agreed the S curves were tamed by speed cameras, calling them "one of the best uses of cameras in the entire state."

But later he fretted about cameras' possible effect on privacy.

"I think there are places where it's proper to use them, but we can't just allow them everywhere," he said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.

CHATTANOOGA TRAFFIC CAMERA MAP:


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about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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ucjb said...

The camera ticketing process is unconstitutional, because of the presumption of guilt.

December 14, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.
Humphrey said...

In Chattanooga, the law is written so that it uses civil trial standards for presumption of guilt, rather than criminal trial standards which are more difficult to establish. That right there is a problem. It isn't a "civil" trial if the government is ticketing you. It is a money making scheme and an abuse of power.

December 14, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.
dave said...

The use of cameras also circumvents an individuals right to face his accuser in a court of law. He is presumed guilty before hand. Last week I was in Red Bank and had to stop at the traffic signal @ Dayton Blvd. and Signal Mountain Road. I was driving my antique automobile and was driving MUCH less than the posted speed limit. When the light signaled yellow I had to Panic Stop my car to avoid running the light. There is NO WAY that that signal is not set up to give tickets! Safety? How about the fellow behind me when I did a four wheel lock the brakes to avoid running the red light? This is all B.S.!Everyone knows it. It is a left-handed form of taxation. Get Real and Get rid of the Traffic Cams!

December 14, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.
ucjb said...

Kill Tennessee Traffic Cameras http://www.facebook.com/killtncams

December 14, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
srd275 said...

The Florida law is a SHAM! Many towns are IGNORING THE RIGHT TURN ON RED RLC prohibition!

I wouldn't trust that dip Reagan any further than I can throw him!

Lakeland, Temple Terrace, Apopka, Aventura are ALL TOWNS IGNORING THE RIGHT TURN ON RED "prohibition". Here is a Ch 13 link on Lakeland and Temple Terrace still doing it after Reagan's "model law". How about model scam!

http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/local/hillsborough/red-light-cameras-rake-in-the-cash-07262010

quote: One thing that did not change with the new law is right on red. The new law says you can do it on red if you are cautious and prudent, but it really depends on what county you're driving in. A word to the wise: Hillsborough won't ticket right turns on red if you are driving under 15 miles per hour, but Lakeland and Tempe Terrace demand a full stop.

Reagan is just being used to give the illusion of "doing something". Did a camera company pay for him to go up there and sell this, I WONDER????? Reagan been bankrolled in the past by people with a FINANCIAL INTEREST IN TRAFFIC CAMERAS!: http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/25/2592.asp

Quote: The graduate of an insurance industry "boot camp" is behind efforts to legalize the use of red light cameras in Florida. State Representative Ron Reagan (R-Bradenton) twice attended the Insurance Campaign Institute, a special program designed to place insurance agents in positions of political power that is bankrolled by twenty insurance companies.

Time to BAN THE CAMERAS ONCE AND FOR ALL!

To many reports are SHOWING RLC CAUSING MORE WRECKS!

Like this one out of CLARKSVILLE, TN! http://reason.com/blog/2010/12/06/red-light-cameras-working-as-i

Want to read more on the LIES that REAGAN and other Camera Promoters tell see here: http://www.banthecams.org/attachments/681_Camera%20Enforcement%20-%20FIVE%20BIGGEST%20LIES%2012.7.2010%20Full%20Length.doc

Fight the scam!

Ban the CAMS!

<p>www.motorists.org www.banthecams.org www.camerafraud.com www.bancams.com>
Eric said...

I recently received a ticket from a red light camera, the first traffic ticket I have received in 18 years. I reviewed the incident on the web site, and I plainly say myself failing to come to a complete stop before turning right on red. I paid the $50 and now make sure to always stop.

My point is, red means stop. It doesn't mean yield or just slow down. For everyone who whines about the cameras, just follow the laws and you are okay. Keep in mind that cameras don't issue tickets, the police officers do. And if you disagree you have the right to appear before the judge. Traffic laws exist to provide safety to everyone on the road. However, one drive along 75 or 153 shows that drivers these days think traffic laws are just suggestions. In an ideal world we wouldn't need traffic enforcement. But until that day comes, I want the police to use every tool they have to see that everyone can arrive home safely.

December 14, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.
ucjb said...

My point is the process is unconstitutional. If you don't want to get hit by a red light runner don't pull out in front of one.

December 14, 2010 at 1:53 p.m.
wholovesher said...

@ucjb: Really?! It sounds like you are more concerned about protecting red light runners than just the process of holding them accountable. Is it really other people's responsibility if someone else runs a light and hits them? That's ridiculous.

December 14, 2010 at 2 p.m.
Eric said...

That sounds like a typical liberal justification to me. Always trying to put the blame on someone else.

I don't see how the process is unconstitutional. If you park illegally and receive a parking ticket, the meter maid doesn't know if the owner parked the car there or someone else. Yet the owner still must pay. Using the constitutionality reasoning, a meter maid would have to wait by the car until the owner comes back so the correct person can be ticketed. I don't see how it is unconstitutional for a ticket to be a civil offense. And judges agree.

December 14, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.
Vigilante said...

Well, what if you are not the one driving your car? What if a friend or family member or a perfect stranger is? Then you will have to prove that you were NOT the one driving the car. Granted, I don't lend my car out to random people, but it is not a far-fetched scenario that someone MIGHT be driving someone else's car, run a red light, and then the owner of the car is responsible for the driver's actions.

The fact that this company gets 50 - 56% of the ticket income really tells what it is all about...and it is not traffic safety!!

December 14, 2010 at 3:17 p.m.
ucjb said...

@wholovesher, ultimately you are the only one that can make you safe. It's called self-preservation. Just because the light is green does NOT mean the road is clear, use your EYEBALLS. If they were serious about safety why doesn't points get added to the red light runners license?

December 14, 2010 at 3:56 p.m.
ucjb said...

@Eric red light running is deadly and a parked car never killed anyone. It's comparing apples and oranges.

December 14, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.
shepherd100 said...

The biggest gripe i have against the cameras is this. If cameras are gonna be put up everywhere then layoff some cops. We dont need our taxes paying for both the cameras and cops. Cops dont do near enough to prevent crime. A big talk was started when the cameras were first talked about. It was how cameras would free cops to do more work against preventing real crime like robberies, burglaries, rape, murder ect. Well it didnt. So get rid of the cameras or the cops. We dont need both. The cameras arent that big a deal really but we dont need both. So choke on that. I hate politicians.

December 14, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.
rtregask said...

Two incidents, pre-traffic camera. You decide.

Syracuse, NY: Departing the SU campus I turned on red after a complete stop. A city policeman pulled me over and wrote a ticket for "illegal right on red".

A sign 50' before the intersection AND obstructed by branches and oak leaves said no right on red. There was no sign at the traffic light.

I took a series of photos and went to court. Stated my case to the judge and asked for a trial by my peers. He sent me out of the courtroom to talk to the prosecutor.

Stated my case again and returned to the judge. He sent us out again. This time the prosecutor offered "noisy muffler". I said I did not have one. Court costs would still apply but no points. I held my ground.

Third time, the prosecutor got the message -- I stated my case again to the judge and asked for a trial. Prosecutor said, "In the interest of justice, the city drops the charge."

If there had been red light cameras ... ???

Years later, I drove through a red light and was promptly pulled over. I explained to the officer that to stop would have put me in the driveway of a fire station and beside a black and white sign that said "No Stopping".

No wants, no warrants, and no ticket. I made a judgment decision and the officer did as well.

If the fine is $50 or less you can not get a jury trial in TN. Wonder why the fine is $50? Cameras in Jonesborough are owned by an Australian firm. Who is the accuser you face? Where is the judgment component when an officer reviews two dimensional photos compared to being there. The intersection of Boones Creek and state route 11E -- definite safety issue based on past accidents, including deaths. Why does Jonesborough have three more cameras within a mile on the same road? By the way, 11E is a state highway and state property. The town never asked permission according to my source.

There need to be controls to keep the players honest. Money corrupts and there is a lot of it at stake, yours or theirs.

December 14, 2010 at 5:16 p.m.
sunnydelight said...

Eric , You may now kiss the Judge . Thats all thas left for you to do .

December 14, 2010 at 5:40 p.m.
shepherd100 said...

Ya know what, piss on cops and piss on all of you who like a cop. They are corrupt, poor individuals who are given too much power and do not know how to exercise it properly

December 14, 2010 at 7:35 p.m.
Eric said...

Ucjb, you totally missed my point. I was addressing the constitutionality issue. And, your comment actually makes a stronger case for red light cameras.

Sunnydelight, what are you talking about? I believe in our justice system. Obviously you don't.

December 14, 2010 at 9:01 p.m.
plsnomobama said...

I really don't care if the city or state make a billion dollars with these cameras. The more they make the more it shows that we have a problem with following traffic laws. Keep ticketing them until they learn their lesson.

December 15, 2010 at 12:28 a.m.
ucjb said...

@plsnomobama typical sheeple comment. You need to wake up before the government sticks camera in your house, for your on good of course.

December 15, 2010 at 8:47 a.m.
socratesxxx said...

Traffic camera companies are paying off public officials to get these golden eggs into as many intersections as possible. Safety concerns? PLEASE!!!! They have a vested interest in fining as many people as possible. They have no interest in reducing the number of violations. They would only make less money!! Private corporations should not be in the law enforcement business.

December 15, 2010 at 9:15 a.m.
bugaboo2 said...

I don't worry about theses cameras. Nobody complains about cameras in banks? What’s the difference? Is it because most people wouldn't rob a bank? Well why the complaints about breaking another law like running a red light? I have the answer.. Everyone thinks they are above the law and that running a red light is just not that important. WRONG! People get killed every day from reckless drivers and if you run a red light you should have to pay the fine. Stop complaining and obey the laws and you will have nothing to worry about.

December 15, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.
ucjb said...

@ bugaboo2 the bank doesn't give you citations... come on dude

December 15, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.
ExtremeJuJu said...

"But later he fretted about cameras' possible effect on privacy."

Ya I don't think so. You're driving on a public road.

December 15, 2010 at 12:47 p.m.
ChattyCathy said...

I fully support the cameras and I also fully support ensuring that they are full-filling their intended purpose - safety. If the cameras show signs of decreasing accidents and speeding they are well worth it. I couldn't care less if the city makes some money as long as the cameras result in safer driving conditions.

December 15, 2010 at 6:55 p.m.
ucjb said...

@ChattyCathy the fact is, they cause crashes. Do some research, you obviously have the internet. At what point are you willing to stand up for your rights? When they've all been taken away? The government is not out to protect you they are out to monitor and control you and take your money and liberty.

December 15, 2010 at 8:06 p.m.
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