Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, renewed the call across the state to eliminate red light cameras saying, at best, only 20 percent of Texans support their use.
The call, which has been made in several prior sessions, has been made yet again with bills similar to those which have died in the legislative process before. Senate bills 87 and 88 would reduce the impact of the cameras on drivers’ lives.
Senate Bill 88 would prohibit future red light cameras installations and use beyond contracts are signed prior to June 1, the bill’s effective date. Hall said this June 1 allowance is only in place per the Texas Constitution, which prohibits interference with existing contracts.This allowance has made it hard, if not impossible for budget authorities to estimate the fiscal impact of the bill, according to an official with the Legislative Budget Board.
The other bill Hall filed, Senate Bill 87, prohibits vehicle registrations being withheld because of unpaid tickets from red light cameras.
The Senate Transportation Committee saw a flurry of testimony on each of these bills, largely in opposition.
Law enforcement was in consensus across the board, with all officers testifying — from police departments including Frisco PD, Austin PD, Plano PD, Balcones Heights PD and Sugar Land PD — against the legislation.
Officers testified that intersections with red light cameras reduced instances of accidents and fatalities. In Frisco, for example, officers testified that crashes were reduced by 50 percent and rear-end crashes were reduced by 40 percent at monitored intersections.
Sugar Land Police Chief Doug Brinkley said his department has seen a 58 percent reduction in crashes since cameras were installed at monitored intersections.
Houston voters elected in 2010 to remove all red light cameras from the city. In a subsequent study, the Houston Police Department found that fatalities at monitored intersections rose by 30 percent in the four years following the removal from the four years prior. In addition, total crashes rose by 117 percent at monitored intersections.
Hall, and those testifying in support of the bills, said there is no real way to know who is driving the car when it is photographed in violation at a red light camera. In addition, opponents raised the question of how revenue from red ticket camera violations was being used.
Chairman Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, asked several cities if they had ever had an audit performed on the accounts receiving red light camera funds. All answered they had not.
The committee recessed prior to taking any action on these bills, although Nichols suggested Hall planned to submit a committee substitute for Senate Bill 88 based on any issues that arose within the committee hearing.
Hall has filed bills in previous sessions. Most recently, in the 2015 session, a similar bill passed the Senate, but died in the House.