Missouri Cities Using Loophole To Ticket Motorists With Speed Cameras

According to a story from stltoday.com, two cities in Missouri are using a legal loophole to get around laws designed to limit the use of speed cameras:

Unlike the controversial speed cameras that were trained on a short stretch of Interstate 170 through Charlack last year, the cameras in Cool Valley and Berkeley have operated in near-obscurity.

Both cities have placed their portable speed cameras just a few feet off the streets they are targeting, leaving them outside the right of way and the reach of the rules.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission in January confined the use of speed cameras on state-controlled roads and highways to school zones, construction zones and Travel Safe Zones.

Cool Valley’s camera monitors Florissant Road, also known as state Highway N. The municipality went to the state before installing the camera and was told it could not be on a state’s right of way. Since October, the speed camera has been in the parking lot of a Florissant Road beauty supply store.

Why would they bother to put the camera in a commercial parking lot? Because it’s the only way they can get around the laws limiting the use of speed cameras:

Because the camera and warning sign are not within the Highway N right of way, they fall outside the reach of state regulation, said Tom Blair, assistant district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation in St. Louis.

[…] Missouri Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, who introduced legislation to limit the reach of speed cameras to work and school zones, said the Cool Valley camera added to the public’s frustration with the devices.

“What’s next?” he asked. “Are we going to hang them from buildings?”

A similar scenario is occurring in Berkeley. The city has put up a speed camera in a location that intentionally avoids legislative limits on speed camera ticketing:

[T]he St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic wrote the city about its camera and told it to remove the photo enforcement warning sign that was facing the westbound lanes of Airport Road because the sign did not conform to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

The manual prohibits installation of signs that attempt to “regulate, warn or guide traffic, except for that installed by the public agency or official having jurisdiction,” wrote Sheryl Hodges, director of the county highway department.

The St. Louis County highway department opposes photo enforcement, she said.

“We believe such micro-enforcement of posted speed limits results in an exorbitant amount of speed citations being issued,” Hodges wrote. “As a result, automated speed camera enforcement procedures make lawbreakers out of those who would otherwise normally be considered safe and prudent drivers.”

Berkeley removed the sign but not the camera.

Of course, both cities claim that their goal is improving safety, not making money. If you believe that, then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long.

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