11/28/2014Congressman Seeks To Rein In Red Light Cameras and Speed Cameras
Congressman introduces bill to withhold federal funding from traffic camera use on federally funded roads and outlaw cameras in DC.
US Representative Steve Stockman (R-Texas) is leaving Capitol Hill with a bang. Last week, the outgoing congressman dropped a number of highly controversial legislative proposals, including a measure designed to discourage states from allowing the use of automated ticketing machines. For the District of Columbia, over which Congress has full jurisdiction, Stockman would impose an outright ban.
Speed cameras and red light cameras have become a major source of revenue for Washington, DC's city government. Last year, the city collected $88,832,976 from 666,275 photo tickets issued by the private vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) -- more than one ticket for every resident. This year, officials budgeted for a net profit of $93.7 million. The "Safer American Streets Act" would reduce that amount to zero.
"The mayor of the District of Columbia may not use an automated traffic enforcement system to detect a moving infraction in the District of Columbia," HR 5755 states.
For the rest of the nation, the bill would require each state to certify that red light cameras and speed cameras are not in use on any road receiving federal funding, whether at the state or municipal level. States allowing ongoing camera use would lose ten percent of their federal highway funding. California, which receives over $4.5 billion in aid, would lose $450 million. Florida would lose $200 million.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC's non-voting delegate to Congress, condemned Stockman and his co-sponsor, Representative Kerry Bentivolio (R-Michigan), for attempting to eliminate a major source of city revenue.
"We would have thought that Republicans would be the first, not the last, to acknowledge that traffic laws are a classic local public safety matter," Holmes Norton said in a statement. "These two members, who profess to support federalism and local control of local affairs, have left their principles behind. Whatever one's views on the merits of traffic cameras, DC's use of them is a quintessential local matter for the local elected government to decide, and not for the big foot of the federal government"
Though presented as a local matter, DC stations its cameras at the entrances and exits to the city so that the vast majority of citations are sent not to District residents but to commuters from Maryland and Virginia. These recipients have no say in whether cameras are used. When put to a vote of the people, red light cameras and speed cameras lose nine out of ten times (view list of votes).
The only independent look at the performance of automated ticketing machines in the nation's capital came from a 2005 Washington Post investigation. The paper, which is a strong editorial advocate for red light cameras, nonetheless reported a doubling of the number of accidents at photo enforced intersections after the devices began issuing tickets (read report).
While there is little chance of the bill being considered in the upcoming lame duck session, the House is sympathetic, having recently voted to ban federal funding for red light cameras.
A copy of HR 5755 is available in a 250k PDF file at the source link below.