published Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Bill reining in red-light, speed cameras on way to governor

NASHVILLE — Efforts to tamp down local governments’ use of traffic-enforcement cameras is speeding toward Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

House members today voted 82-2 for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge. It passed the Senate earlier today, 29-0.

“It doesn’t do all the things that a lot of people wanted, but it does do a lot of things everybody can agree on,” Dean told colleagues.

The bill caps several years of efforts to rein in what critics say is cities’ abusive use of red-light and speed cameras.

Opponents have tried to ban the cameras but have been stymied by cities such as Chattanooga and private vendors who contract with them in lucrative fine-sharing contracts.

Dean said his bill defines and bans speed traps, in which speed limits suddenly plummet just before a motorist encounters a camera.

Cities could no longer use cameras to ticket motorists for making a rolling-stop turn on red unless the intersection has a sign banning right turns on red.

Local governments also would be required to have studies done to demonstrate a camera would address genuine safety problems.

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesboro, a fierce critic of the cameras, thanked Dean for bringing the bill, noting he has a problem in his district.

“Once and for all, this horrible speed trap in Bluff City will end,” Hill said.

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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librul said...

Thanks to Rep. Matthew Hill(R-Jonesboro), scofflaws are now the rulers of the road. Every roadway disaster and every family which loses a loved one when "speed was a factor" should sue his a$$ into next week. The anarchy on our highways goes unabated by law enforcement and if we cannot depend on them to do what we pay taxes for them to do, I, for one, appreciate the efforts of communities to utilize technology to take up the slack. It is getting to the point where it is actually dangerous to do what every licensed driver in Tennessee knows they should do - obey the speed limits. Such abuse of common sense seems to be the exclusive province of Republican numbnuts like Rep. Hill.

May 21, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.
PhotoRadarScam said...

It's unfortunate the ban will not happen, but at least the cities will have to conduct engineering studies. I hope that the law is written so that the studies are legitimate and done by REAL contracting firms rather than camera companies. To Librul, "speed was a factor" does not mean that going a few mph slower would prevent the accident. In fact, "speed was a factor" doesn't even mean "speed above posted limit." Cameras are a pathetic replacement for real law enforcement. Cameras have a built in 28%+ error rate because they don't even identify the driver. The OWNER is NOT the DRIVER over 28% of the time, and this doesn't include processing errors or machine malfunctions. Pathetic. The cameras are NOT about safety or law enforcement. They are about making MONEY.

May 21, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.
GeorgiaRebel said...

The cameras are about revenue. They never have been about safety. There are more effective ways to prevent accidents at red lights than cameras (adding seconds to the yellow light, simultaneous red lights, etc.). Allowing mercenaries to collect money from citizens is nothing short of the government using a private company to rob citizens.

May 21, 2011 at 9:21 p.m.
rolando said...

Those votes in the Senate and the House say it all. Kudos for our Legislature. Huzzah.

No one, not even objective Safety folks, wants the cameras except the city Treasurers and the contractors owning the cameras.

May 21, 2011 at 9:33 p.m.
brokentoe said...

@Cities could no longer use cameras to ticket motorists for making a rolling-stop turn on red unless the intersection has a sign banning right turns on red.

This Bill is like a tiger with no teeth. Tennessee cities have already thrown up NO TURN ON RED signs where it was once legal to make a right turn on red after coming to to stop. Fool the citizens once, shame on you. Fool them over and over, and they still don't get it, they get what they deserve.

May 21, 2011 at 9:36 p.m.
tderng said...

dusty dur

May 21, 2011 at 10:46 p.m.
sunnydelight said...

Finally something that makes sense .--- Cities could no longer use cameras to ticket motorists for making a rolling-stop turn on red unless the intersection has a sign banning right turns on red. I drive through many cities in the state of Tennessee almost daily. I haven't seen any new signs banning Right turns on red. Where is this happening?

May 22, 2011 at 8:41 a.m.
fcmashburn said...

@GeorgiaRebel is right. These cameras have never been about safety. They are revenue producers, period. The ones at traffic lights have been shown to increase rear-ending accidents because motorists are jamming on brakes to avoid a ticket by proceeding through a light that has just turned yellow. The legislature should take the next steps and outlaw the scam of sharing the revenue with private firms providing the cameras.

May 22, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.
fcmashburn said...

I'm still not sure how the use of these cameras can be legal. The citation goes against the registered owner of the vehicle. As has been noted, this is not always the operator of the vehicle at the time of the violation. Traffic violations are criminal offenses (albeit minimal ones). If an officer pulls you over for an offense, he must first establish your identity before citing you. How can you be charged with a criminal offense with no credible witness to identify you as the offender? What about your Constitutional right to face your occuser? Do they bring the camera to traffic court? Duh, no...

May 22, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
goodidea said...

Cameras are enjoyed by communist only... If you get a ticket from one of these cameras it is not a criminal offense, it is only a civil fine. So if you don't pay it you will not go to jail you will only have the fine go against your credit... If the government really gives to shakes about "safety" why not put sensors in cars and on the road so that cars will only go as fast as the speed limit allows.

May 22, 2011 at 11:19 a.m.
librul said...

Sounds like a good idea, goodidea, but if people don't want to get tickets from speed cameras because they think it's "big brother" watching them, they'll have a real fit thinking that they're vehicle's speed is "under the control of the government."

It's beyond amusing that people in this forum default to the argument that the cameras "are all about revenue" as if tickets issued by cops in traditional speed traps weren't about the same thing. Heck, I could pay my annual property tax if they would give me a radar gun for a day - the fact is the cops aren't doing their job and drivers no longer respect the law - something's gotta give.

May 22, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.
HenryTen said...

ATS, the company running many cameras in Tennessee, has just been exposed as being behind a lot of the pro-camera comments posted online. The expose caused the suspension of an ATS VP, last Wednesday.

If you go to the website of the Everett (WA) Daily Herald ( and put Kroske into the search box, the articles will come up.

But don't stop there. Kroske was just one of ATS' spokesmen. There's at least one other, and he is potentially much more dangerous. He is Mark Rosenker, former chair of the NTSB. Having retired from the NTSB he now is Senior Advisor to an ATS-supported pro-camera group. Taking advantage of his ('til now) top notch credentials, Rosenker has been granted numerous pro-camera "guest columns" in newspapers around the country in which he mentioned his current position as Senior Advisor to the National Coalition for Safer Roads but never disclosed that the NCSR is supported by ATS.

May 22, 2011 at 10:09 p.m.
Gideon_Planish said...

Of when the Tennessee General Assembly is not in session, Rep. Matthew Hill most likely passes through Bluff City twice a day when traveling from his residence in Jonesborough to his daddy's radio station studios in Bristol...

1,662 ticketed by Bluff City traffic cameras, netting city $150K in fees [Piney Flats

After a heated battle involving Bristol, Tenn., Johnson City and Sullivan County, Bluff City in 2000 annexed a 3.8-mile stretch of U.S. 11E that runs from the South Fork of the Holston River to the Piney Flats crossroads.

“Over the past few years, there’s been too many accidents there and far too many at high speed,” Chief Nelson said, explaining the purpose behind the speed cameras in Piney Flats.

Wanting to reduce the number of crashes, Nelson made a strong push in December 2008 to install speed cameras in front of Pardner’s, where the speed limit drops from 55 mph to 45 mph at the start of a commercial zone.

As part of this push, Nelson repeatedly cited Mount Carmel’s success with the speed cameras and used a traffic study from Bristol, Tenn., Traffic Engineer David Metzger conducted at the highway’s 45 mph zone between Jan. 9 and Jan. 16, 2009.

Metzger’s study found that 9 percent of the 114,991 cars and trucks that drove through the 45 mph zone that week were doing at least 55 mph, 143 of them were traveling at least 65 mph and 12 were doing at least 75 mph.

On April 10, the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 4-1 to allow the city to install the speed cameras on U.S. 11E. They also signed up with ATS to operate the speed cameras in exchange for $40 of every $90 the system generates.

“The intent [behind these cameras] is not revenue,” Mayor Todd Malone said then, countering concerns by city residents that the purpose behind the cameras was to generate new money.

“The intent is to change driving habits on U.S. 11E,” he said.

During a warning period from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1, the cameras issued nearly 2,300 warning citations to speeders.

But 1,493 real citations went to speeders in January and another 169 were issued during the first nine days of February.

In November, there were six vehicle accidents in the 45 mph zone of the section of 11E now monitored by Bluff City’s speed cameras, Nelson said.

There wasn’t a single accident on that strip of highway in December and only two accidents there in January, he added.][1]

May 27, 2011 at 10:46 p.m.
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