9/12/2018Texas Governor Campaigns On Red Light Camera Ban
Texas Governor Greg Abbott makes outlawing red light cameras a major campaign promise.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) believes opposing the use of red light cameras could help him secure re-election in November. On Monday, Abbott released a four-point public safety plan that elevated the issue to the status of a key campaign promise.
Under the heading of "strengthening the rights of Texas drivers," the former state attorney general said he would "Prohibit local adoption of red light cameras and preempt any local ordinances or policies permitting red light cameras already in force." He justified the move by explaining the use of automated ticketing machines is more likely to increase than decrease accidents.
"Some studies indicate that red light cameras might not reduce accidents but may in fact increase them," Abbott wrote, citing coverage in TheNewspaper. "According to a study at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, red light cameras did cause fewer drivers to run red lights, and therefore led to fewer T-bone angle collisions, but also caused many drivers to brake abruptly, as drivers slammed on the brakes to avoid the fines."
Thirty-seven Texas cities use red light cameras, placing the Lone Star state behind only Illinois, Florida and California in automated ticketing. A ban on mailed traffic tickets would put a significant squeeze on camera industry revenue. When faced with similar threats in Texas in the past, the industry has responded by setting up front groups to pay outsiders $18 an hour to give the appearance of grassroots support for the cameras.
Polls show Abbott currently enjoys a 14 point lead over Democratic rival Lupe Valdez, and Abbott's position is likely to be equally well received at the ballot box. Voters in Conroe, Dayton, Houston, Baytown, League City, Arlington and College Station have used the initiative process to kick red light cameras out of their own communities. Nationwide, voters have also overwhelmingly opposed the use of cameras at the ballot box (view list of votes).
The Texas legislature will meet in January to consider legislation to ban cameras, but such proposals face an uphill battle. Lawmakers friendly to the photo enforcement industry have blocked such efforts by inserting a "grandfather clause" that rendered the ban meaningless by allowing existing programs to continue indefinitely. The original proponent of cameras, then-state Representative Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), snuck a one-sentence provision authorizing cameras into an unrelated bill in 2003. She and her husband were later given a 2010 Mercedes E550 sedan worth $55,000 by a red light camera equipment provider. The Texas Ethics Commission fined the lawmaker $2000 in 2012.
A copy of Abbott's full proposal is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.