Red light cameras may become a thing of the past in Texas under a new initiative from Gov. Greg Abbott.
In September, Abbott released a report detailing four proposed safety policies. One of those policies would ban the controversial red light cameras.
Abbott’s report comes less than a year after a study was published suggesting red light cameras in Texas do not decrease accidents. The study, conducted by Case Western Reserve University, examined red light camera programs in Texas cities. It found that the cameras often reduced accidents from vehicles running red lights but increased accidents from drivers stopping at an intersection to avoid a fine.
Critics of red light cameras, including the Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition, have argued that the cameras deny the right of a person to confront his accuser, among other things.
Frisco has had up to five active red light cameras at one time. Though only one camera is active now, Frisco Deputy Police Chief David Shilson said banning the city from using the cameras would have negative safety and financial consequences.
“You can look at our program, and I think we’ve seen success here locally,” Shilson said. “… I think it should be one of those things that’s left up to the cities to determine whether or not this is an appropriate technology to use.”
The Texas Legislature will begin meeting Jan. 8 to consider new state laws, which may include a possible ban on red light cameras.
Red light cameras detect vehicles that have passed sensors after a traffic signal has turned red, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Cameras capture photos and/or videos showing the vehicles that have run the red light.
The photos and/or videos are reviewed by the local law enforcement agency. Frisco Police Department’s traffic unit reviews the footage from its red light cameras, Shilson said. If an officer determines that a violation occurred, a notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.
The fine for a red light camera is split two ways: 50 percent is sent to the state to fund trauma and emergency medical services, and the rest is retained by the local authority to be used only for traffic safety programs.
Shilson said red light cameras are often a last resort in response to intersections that have high numbers of collisions.
“Red light cameras are not the magic cure,” he said. “You have to consider a lot of different dynamics before you ever think about putting a camera up.”
Shilson said the city often will first look at whether engineering solutions will help reduce the number of collisions at an intersection. Before installing a red light camera, crash data is presented to the city’s Red Light Camera Committee composed of residents that advise the city on the installation and operation of cameras.
Shilson said Frisco’s red light cameras have reduced the number of collisions at intersections.
Each Frisco camera that has had crash reports sent to TxDOT has had a different trend. The one active camera at Preston Road and Gaylord Parkway has gone up and down in crashes since its implementation, peaking at 18 crashes in the 2011-12 report and hitting a low of seven crashes in the most recent 2016-17 report.
Overall, right-angle collisions, a type of collision that can occur when a vehicle runs a red light, have either remained flat or have decreased in Frisco at intersections with cameras.
Frisco’s share of the revenue from red light camera fines has gone toward programs such as Shattered Dreams, which educates students on the potential consequences of underage drinking and driving. Shilson said the city is also looking into purchasing movable street barricades to prevent vehicle and pedestrian collisions during major community events.
Shilson said without that revenue, the city would have to find a place in the budget to fund these programs.
“We’ve just funded a lot of projects, training, programs with that money that have all paid dividends to the citizens,” he said. “Those are all things that without the red light camera money that we’ll have to find money somewhere else.”