2/22/2012Colorado Committee Rejects Statewide Traffic Camera Ban
Colorado Senate committee begins consideration of statewide photo enforcement ban.
It appears less likely that lawmakers in Colorado will pull the plug on red light cameras and speed cameras. The state Senate Transportation Committee yesterday voted 5-2 against a measure that would have repealed authorization for the use of automated ticketing machines that had been granted in 1997. Nine cities currently hire private companies to issue $75 tickets to the owners of vehicles accused by a camera, and the practice has generated significant controversy.
"A governmental entity or agent thereof shall not issue a traffic citation pursuant to this article based on evidence gathered as a result of an automated vehicle identification system used on any highways, roads, or streets," Senate Bill 50 stated.
As introduced by state Senator Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley), the bill would have initially allowed only an exception for the use of photo enforcement of toll violations on toll roads. Attempts to exclude red light cameras and highway speed cameras from the ban failed to mollify the committee's photo ticketing fans who pointed out that local officials depend on their cameras.
City councils in Boulder, Cherry Hills Village and Commerce City dispatched police department representatives to testify in defense of their lucrative programs. Each claimed the cameras were wildly popular and effective at reducing accidents.
"Clearly we are not running this program to make money," Boulder Deputy Police Chief Dave Hayes testified. "We are doing so because it makes our community safer."
Renfroe disputed that claim based on independent research that has found photo ticketing can actually cause an increase in the number of accidents. He cited a University of South Florida study (view study) and recent data compiled by the Kansas City, Missouri police department (view report) to cast doubt on the safety effectiveness of automated enforcement when reviewers did not have "skin in the game" -- a financial interest in the outcome of their investigation.
"You would see cameras everywhere if we were trying to generate revenue with them," Colorado Municipal League spokesman Mark Radtke said.
Photo radar opponents countered with the example of Denver, where ticketing revenue vaulted from $3.6 million in 2010 to $7 million in 2011 when the city's vendor began ticketing people who stop at red lights, but not precisely at a designated line painted on the pavement. Denver's own city auditor blasted the practice after noting the program had no proven safety benefit (view audit). Likewise, officials in Colorado Springs last year reported there was no evidence that it made intersections safer after the program failed to turn a significant profit.
John Gaudio, an electrical engineer, testified about how he had been flashed by a camera, looked down at his speedometer, and saw he was not speeding. He was appalled to learn when he challenged the ticket that the judicial deck was stacked against him with his administrative hearing officer serving both as his judge and prosecutor.
"This is an atrocity," Gaudio said. "It undermines the people with their opinion of the courts, law enforcement and the law in general. This is an abuse that needs to stop."
Renfroe noted that fifteen states currently ban the use of automated ticketing machines as evidence that the issue is not simply a local matter.
"Transportation is a statewide concern, even for home rule jurisdictions," Renfroe said. "[Some] citizens do have the opportunity to vote and change that policy at the local level, but you don't have that opportunity in Denver... You have those people who don't have that opportunity to vote in the city that they go to or go through, and that's why I think it rises to a statewide concern."
A copy of the legislation is available in a 135k PDF file at the source link below.