Red light camera ban clears TX House committee

Investigations
RED LIGHT CAMERA INTERSECTION

AUSTIN (KXAN) The first step to banning red light cameras in Texas cleared its first hurdle when the House Transportation Committee voted 9 to 3 to pass the ban bill. The bill would pull the plug on every red light camera in the state. 

The 13-member committee voted late Wednesday to approve the ban bill, which was left pending in the committee since a March 26 meeting. 

Voting for the ban bill: Rep. Brooks Landgraf, Rep. Yvonne Davis, Rep. Craig Goldman, Rep. Cole Hefner, Rep. Matt Krause, Rep. Ben Leman, Rep. John Raney, Rep. Shawn Thierry and Rep. Ed Thompson. 

Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Diego Bernal and Rep. Armando Martinez each voted to keep red light cameras operating in Texas. 

The bill outlaw photographic traffic enforcement of red light runners — that is, if the bill clears the full House and the Senate and the governor signs it. 

In the March 26 hearing, police officers and city officials testified against the bill banning the Scofflaw enforcement on Texas red light cameras. Each of the officials were employed by cities that currently issue red light camera tickets and collect the fines from those cameras.

The House committee is the first step in a decade-long battle to stop Texas cities from using a private company’s automated red-light cameras to mail drivers a $75 fine. The ban bill, H.B. 1631, was filed by Rep. Jonathan Stickland in February. 

Stickland has four “joint authors” and 98 “coauthors” on the bill. A similar bill filed by Sen. Bob Hall would also ban red light cameras, but that bill is sitting in the Senate Transportation Committee. 

Cities, like Austin, argued in favor of keeping the red-light cameras.

The arguments center on claims the cameras have made intersections safer by stopping drivers from running red lights. However, a KXAN investigation found more drivers ran red lights in Austin in 2018 than ever before.

City court records show Austin’s nine red light cameras issued 13,175 tickets in 2018. Those same cameras issued 11,877 tickets in 2017. Since installing its red-light cameras in 2009, the city of Austin’s issued 93,370 red light camera tickets at a value of more than $7 million dollars.  

Since Austin installed its nine red light cameras in 2009, Austin Police have stopped — and fined —fewer red-light runners.

In 2014, city court records show APD stopped and wrote 8,002 tickets for running red lights. In the next three years, APD’s red light ticketing dropped by half to a low of 4,024 tickets where an officer ticketed a red-light runner. 

APD only issued 3,102 red light tickets in 2018.

APD has little to do with collecting red light camera tickets as those are civil fines and handled by the city’s municipal court. The $75 fines cannot be reported to credit reporting agencies and police are banned by law from issuing a warrant for failure to pay a red-light camera ticket, although some counties and cities in Texas are placing holds on vehicle registration renewals for unpaid red-light camera tickets under the state’s Scofflaw statute. 

A KXAN investigation, however, found fewer cities and counties have Scofflaw contracts with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles today, meaning fewer cities and counties are placing holds on vehicle registrations.

Here’s a list of counties placing registration holds for failure to pay a red light camera ticket: 

A bill that would have banned cities and counties from holding registrations for failure to pay a red light camera ticket is also headed to the Calendars Committe where it could be sent to the House floor for a vote before the end of this year’s session.

Governor Greg Abbott has announced his support of banning red light cameras in Texas. It was a campaign promise the governor made to voters in his re-election to the office. 

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