NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for June 19, 2018

Compiled by NMA Foundation Director James C. Walker and NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn

The ATE Racket Report is a weekly feature of the NMA blog. We want to bring the issues of automated traffic enforcement to our supporters in a more coherent up-to-date fashion.

This past week…

New York’s Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s proposal to raise the red-light camera program fees by two percent has been killed. Put in place in 2009, RLCs were brought in to make intersections safer but instead the money gained from fines has been seen as a new revenue stream by some county officials.

Wait and See

Bibb County/Macon, Georgia Commissioners were slated to vote on adding red-light and speed cameras around the county last week according to news reports. But since the meeting, we cannot find any additional news on the subject either in local news or on the county website.

Westchester County (White Plains), has requested from the New York state legislature to allow the county to have “Home Rule” with the understanding that the county would then be allowed to place up to 100 red-light cameras in the county and to create a traffic and parking violations agency.

Central Ohio 33 Smart Mobility Corridor will see drones monitoring traffic for the next 12-months. The drones will monitor the 35-mile highway and provide new information on how to prevent crashes between manned and unmanned aircraft. It’s part of DriveOhio, a center developed within the Ohio DOT that will push new technologies to improve the state’s transportation system.

Plano, Texas has yet another lawsuit filed against their red-light camera program (25 cameras installed at 17 intersections). The suit claims that the due process of drivers who contest tickets is being violated because the traffic court judge does not have the proper jurisdiction to hear the case. Attorney Russell Bowman received a ticket four years ago and when he asked for discovery to fight his ticket, specifically a traffic engineering study, the city refused. He continues to appeal his ticket. The current suit was brought for two residents who received RLC tickets in the city.

Bad News

Orlando, Florida court case: No refunds for illegal red-light tickets. The state Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that when people pay a citation, they are doing so voluntarily and are not entitled to their money back. True…but if the money was illegally obtained by a greedy city government?…

In Bethesda, Maryland, more than 32,000 citations were issued to drivers illegally passing Montgomery County school buses during the past school year. That’s an average of 179 citations per day. Currently, only 500 of the 1,350 buses have stop arm cameras. Next year by this time, officials say all school buses will have the money makers. Each citation costs $250.

New Hampshire police departments continue to salivate for Automated License Plate Readers ever since lawmakers lifted the ban. Sunapee is the latest and will be the second department to receive one. In 2016, lawmakers allowed local police to use ALPRs with the caveat that any data collected is only allowed to be stored for 3 minutes—the shortest data collection time of any state.

Parma Heights, OH (a suburb of Cleveland) turned its red-light and speed cameras back on last week. There’s a grace period until June 30th. Citations are $200 for speeding in a 25 mph zone and $100 for running a red-light (and with no points). Even though the mayor says turning the cams back on is about safety, the city also faces a $1.2 million deficit at the end of 2018.

A Denton, Texas lawsuit against red-light camera has concluded. In early June, the judge in the case agreed with the city’s claim of immunity and dismissed charges against the city and Redflex. The four plaintiffs in the case had their tickets dismissed but their concerns about the case remain. Plaintiff Ronnie Anderson said he was ticketed after another person ran a red light while using his vehicle. In Texas, RLC violations are civil penalties, don’t count against a criminal record, arrest warrant will not be issued if not paid and does not count against the person’s driving record. One good thing though due to the lawsuit, Denton County Tax Assessor/Collector Michelle French has decided to no longer withhold vehicle registrations from those drivers who do not pay their red-light camera tickets.

Puyallup, Washington has extended its contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for another five years which will allow for implementation of new cameras. The city has 13 cameras at six intersections. In 2016 and 2017, drivers received between 33,000 and 34,000 tickets per year.

NMA’s City and State Lists of RLCs and speed cameras

The NMA has compiled a list of which states and cities are using red-light and speed cameras. This may not be a complete list and please send any additions or subtractions to the nma@motorists.org for updating the list.

Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week

The Nassau County proposal to raise red-light camera fees met high resistance and is currently on hold. The program ceased to have a safety focus long ago and is now just a regular revenue source – the most common result.

The suit in Plano, TX may or may not go anywhere, but the publicity that it is happening helps to increase public resistance to the for-profit camera rackets. The suit in Denton, TX failed but having the county stop withholding registration renewals is a very good step. Without that club, Denton will have many ticket racket victims simply refuse to pay because there will be no consequences.

The failure of the suit in Orlando, FL is unfortunately similar to other such suits.  Courts, even high level appellate courts, tend to side with allowing cities to keep the money taken from mostly safe drivers, whether legally taken or not. A high proportion of courts vote with the $$$$, not with fairness or justice.

Montgomery County, MD runs some of the most predatory for-profit ticket camera rackets in the country. Per data from NHTSA from 1999 through 2016, the stop arm camera program targets the 31% of under-age-19 pedestrian fatalities in School Transportation Related Crashes caused by passing cars. It totally ignores the 69% of those child fatalities caused by the busses – because there would be no profits in finding ways to stop the busses from killing more than twice as many kids as passing cars. Also note the fatalities by passing cars are EXCEEDINGLY RARE at an average of 36.22 kids killed nationwide in a 10 year period, lower than one per state per 10 years. Stop arm cameras are about $$$$, not safety, and are being pushed by the for-profit camera companies to replace revenue being lost as cities close red-light and speed camera rackets.

There is a bill pending in Ohio that would reduce state funding support to any city using ticket cameras by the amount of the ticket camera revenue. This would make it unprofitable for cities to use them, and likely many would end the rackets.

James C. Walker is a life member of the National Motorists Association. He is also a board member and executive director of the National Motorists Association Foundation.

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