1/13/2011Missouri Department of Transportation Endorses Red Light Cameras
Missouri Department of Transportation introduces effort to convince legislature to keep red light cameras.
The Missouri General Assembly convened in regular session last week with a number of lawmakers itching to enact a ban on the use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the state. The legislature has never authorized the use of the devices, but dozens of cities have side-stepped questions of legality and installed the devices with the hope that lawmakers would eventually go along. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) yesterday waded into the policy debate by formally endorsing automated ticketing machines.
"We believe that to help manage some of the perceptions of automated enforcement that it was appropriate to frame some sort of public policy endorsed by our commission," MoDOT System Management Director Don Hillis said. "We're trying to be pro-active. "
Those policies were developed by "stakeholders" identified by MoDOT as traffic camera companies and local government officials. No representatives from the motoring public or state lawmakers named as participants. The new restrictions developed by this group apply only to traffic cameras on state roads. The new rules are so closely aligned with existing practice that they will not put any of the existing eighty-eight cameras out of business.
The practices include: requiring a police officer to sign off on the set of violations identified by the private camera vendor before that vendor sends them in the mail. Cities must hold "public awareness" campaigns for the camera program, a function already provided by contract with photo ticketing vendors. Signs must be posted at camera locations and each jurisdiction will have to submit violation and accident report data to MoDOT. Speed cameras will only be used in school zones and highway work zones where the speed limits have been lowered.
Within minutes of the announcement of the new policy, Missouri's number-one traffic camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), issued a press release commending the commission's decision. The company claimed safety benefits for the cameras, a point that MoDOT attempted to establish with figures that showed intersections with red light cameras saw an increase in the total number of accidents. There were 14 percent more incidents classified as having moderate injuries or property damage only caused primarily by rear-end collisions. The agency downplayed this figure and highlighted the reduction in a less-common form accident, serious right-angle incidents, which declined 45 percent despite the overall increase in accidents. No control groups were used for the study, which was based on an analysis of state accident database records.