Friday, February 25, 2005

Who wanted red light cameras?

Eight Democrats and 22 Republicans voted against Gary Elkins HB 259, which disallowed cities from giving tickets to red light runners via cameras. Those thirty include some of the most liberal (Lon Burnam, Scott Hochberg) and some of the most conservative (Phil King, Beverly Woolley) members of the Texas House.

Grits has argued previously in support of HB 259 that proliferating government surveillance cameras in public spaces diminish personal privacy, plus increase injury accidents instead of reduce them. ACLU of Texas worked the vote in committee (I testified on their behalf) and our legislative committee volunteers handed out flyers to House members yesterday as they passed through "the well" onto the House floor. That last effort was probably overkill. In the end, the bill passed 109-30, bettering the 103-34 margin by which the House opposed cameras in 2003.

(Congrats to Rep. Elkins and his staff, by the way -- they're really working hard to fix this loophole in Texas law.)

With all the talk about increasing the number of record votes, it's worth noting that most controversial items get record votes already. E.g., here is the list of Texas legislators who supported giving red light tickets with cameras (i.e., who opposed Elkins' bill):

Allen, Alma(D); Allen, Ray(R); Berman, (R); Burnam(D); Castro(D); Dawson(R); Driver(R); Farabee(D); Goolsby(R); Griggs(R); Harper-Brown(R); Hill(R); Hochberg(D); Jackson, Jim(R); Jones, Delwin(R); Keffer, Bill(R); King, Phil(R); Laubenberg(R); Luna(D); Madden(R); McCall(R); Menendez(D); Morrison(R); Mowery(R); Paxton(R); Smith, Todd(R); Vo(D); West, Buddy(R); Wong(R); Woolley(R) [See House member pages here.]

A final aside -- I reported after the committee vote that Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, flip flopped on the issue from 2003. He voted against red light cameras in the 78th Legislature, but surprisingly, FOR cameras in committee last week. Well, he flipped back yesterday, voting for HB 259 with the majority.
It's not that I'm ungrateful, just ... curious.


Mike said...

As for the studies showing rear-endings, I have my doubts - have any of these studies been done on places where the red-light cameras have been in operation for a long time, say a year or two? (I think you can guess why I ask that).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If I'm not mistaken, the Virginia study was a longitudinal study of seven cities' systems since their inception up to about four years ago. The links were in this post Actually, most of the studies I've seen referenced yielded similar results -- higher overall injury accidents, coupled with a decline but not at all an elimination of side-impact accidents. I'll admit, though, I've not looked at any studies' methodologies.

The reason people won't get used to it and take the cameras into account is that people run red lights because they're guessing when the light will turn. Even with the cameras, they're still guessing. They just get a ticket if they guess wrong. From what I've heard, the best technological solution is a light with visible timers counting down at the tenth of a second level. That actually tells drivers when the light will turn, so they have all the information they need not to run it, except in the cases of willfulness, wet roads, etc.

Hey, BTW, sorry to read you got kicked off that city board, Mike. Keep up the good work, though, and don't worry about it; Slusher's loss. (His departure will be the city's gain, no matter who replaces him.) Best,

John David Galt said...

I sympathize with the goal of stopping red-light running, but that's not what RLCs are about. They're a money making racket. They're always placed where accidental light-running is very common, usually because the yellow is too short and/or the lights are badly placed or are timed to keep you waiting for ridiculous lengths of time in the middle of the night when there's no reason to stay stopped. The contractor that runs the cameras always insists that the host city or county promise not to lengthen the yellow (an easy fix that will usually solve the actual problem of red-light running). Sometimes the contractor even makes illegal changes to the traffic signal such as moving detector loops so that the light will never change unless somebody runs it. (This led to San Diego's RLC program getting thrown out by the courts.)

I urge all who believe, as I do, in fighting RLCs, speed traps and other violations of drivers' rights join the one political/lobby group that cares -- NMA ( Mention my name if you do. Thanks!