6/22/2008Rhode Island Turns School Bus Into Ticket Bus
Rhode Island legislature votes to make red light camera law permanent and to turn school buses into automated ticketing machines.
The Rhode Island General Assembly yesterday adopted two measures designed to shore up state and local budgets through photo ticketing. Without debate, lawmakers voted to make permanent the state's red light camera program, despite a report issued by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that shows the system has failed to produce any measurable safety improvement. The adopted legislation strikes a sunset clause in existing law that would have forced cameras in Providence to shut down in July.
Also without debate, both the state House and Senate voted unanimously to convert school buses into a mobile ticketing platform. A private, for-profit company would mount video cameras on school buses that would record continuous video. When the machine detects a vehicle moving within 50 feet of the bus a second after the bus driver activates a red flashing light, then the vendor will mail a $300 ticket to that car's owner.
This piece of legislation was written in such a way as to create a massive financial windfall for the private company that wins the contract to operate the system. In other states, it is up to cities to negotiate the best price for red light camera and speed camera programs among the companies that offer the service. Because the profit potential is so great, the competition is often intense and vendors will often undercut one another to entice cities to give them their business. Generally, most per-ticket bounties are $40 or less. Rhode Island's proposed law, however, specifies that the selected vendor will automatically collect $225 for each citation the company can issue while the state and municipality would each pocket only $37.50. If a vehicle is cited a second time, the owner -- who may not necessarily have been driving -- could have his license suspended for thirty days. The ticket would also jump to $500, with the private vendor collecting $375 and the state and city each pocketing $62.50.
Similar ticket bus legislation has been considered in Missouri and Pennsylvania. These states, however, did not specify the per-ticket bounty amount. Rhode Island's red light camera and bus camera legislation will become law if signed by Donald Carcieri (R).
The full text of the bus camera legislation is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.