Bill would ban red light, speeding cams

Published: Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:08 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:57 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A bill pending in the state legislature would ban red light and speeding cameras.  The bill would also require all communities that already have red light cameras to remove them within six months.  Supporters of the bill say the cameras are unfair to motorists, but police are fighting against it.

Law enforcement officials testified at a hearing during a meeting of the House Public Safety and Committee.  They said the cameras have helped reduce accidents and save lives.  For instance at the Vaughn Road and Eastern Boulevard intersection in Montgomery, police said accidents have dropped by 88 percent in the three years since the cameras were installed.

"I think we'd like the latitude to expand it, but I do think we as law enforcement professionals and city leaders need to be responsible to not put them up anywhere just to generate citations," said Chris Murphy, Director of Public Safety for the city of Montgomery.

But some lawmakers think cities are doing exactly that.  Representative Paul Beckman also said many of the tickets can be thrown out if drivers appeal.

"It's a numbers game," Rep. Beckman said.  "If I send out 10 of those hopefully we get six of them.  That's why I say it's a cash register deal."

Beckman also said the cameras and the citations they generate violate the right to due process, meaning it assumes drivers have to prove their innocence, and not the other way around.  Police departments disagree with that assessment.  They say the most important thing is the cameras are changing drivers' habits.

"People are not running red lights as they were once doing,' said William Riley, Chief of the Selma Police Department.  "They are paying attention to their driving habits.  And that's what we want, so therefore they are driving safer."

The House Public Safety and Committee did not vote on the plan Wednesday, and will take it up at a later date.  Opelika and Tuscaloosa are among the other cities in the state that have red light cameras in the works.

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