Legislators debate use of traffic cameras

Legislators debate use of traffic cameras

January 12th, 2010 by Adam Crisp in News

Link to the House Transportation Committee hearing on traffic cameras

PROPOSALS FOR CAMERAS

* Outright ban

* Moratorium

* Requirements for additional engineering studies

* Uniform guidelines

* Statewide audit of the traffic camera programs already in existence

Source: Tennessee House Transportation Committee

Chattanooga's representatives on the Tennessee House Transportation Committee fought Tuesday to keep traffic cameras on state roads.

The discussion came as committee members sought to place guidelines -- or an outright ban -- on the controversial photo-enforcement systems that have appeared across the state.

"This is a difficult issue for every one of us," said Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. "We have all our local governments who want to do this, but if you put it on a ballot, you'd get blown out of the water."

Chairman Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, said the committee was attempting to compile ideas on how to regulate the cameras into one piece of legislation that could be sent to the full House for vote.

The committee made no decision Monday, but legislators agreed to reconvene at 9 a.m. CST today to sort through nine proposals.

Chattanooga's steep, winding "S" curves on Hixson Pike were touted as examples of how speed cameras can save lives. City leaders have long claimed the reduction in crashes along that road is due to video cameras that photograph speeding motorists, then issue $50 tickets by mail.

Chattanooga has both speed and so-called red-light cameras, while Red Bank uses red-light cameras at three intersections and East Ridge recently voted to install cameras on several roads.

Chattanooga Police Chief Freeman Cooper and Red Bank Police Chief Larry Sneed attended Monday's hearing, but did not speak.

Options

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 on Thursday. Cameras are installed at three intersections in Red Bank.

Among the proposals in the legislative committee were outright bans, moratoriums, requirements for additional engineering studies, proposals for uniform guidelines and a command for the state comptroller to perform a statewide audit of the traffic camera programs already in existence.

Among some legislators there was a desire to simply ban the cameras, while the two Hamilton County lawmakers, Rep. Floyd and Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, appeared to support tightening restrictions but keeping the cameras.

"almost a mandate"

"This is a representative form of government, and there are an awful lot of people who (oppose traffic cameras)," said Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport. "If we put it on the ballot, I think it would fail 85 to 15. That's almost a mandate."

Rep. Harmon introduced one proposal that would ban the cameras and a second that would put a two-year moratorium on the devices while the comptroller conducted a study.

Any vote cast today won't be a vote on a bill, but the proposals that make it out of the committee will be used to form a bill regulating the cameras.

The bill still needs to pass the committees and the full legislative bodies before being signed in as a law.