Lawmakers push to bring back red light cameras

A group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would allow cities to use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. The bill, which was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, would also allow law enforcement personnel to use cameras to catch people who are speeding.

In 2007 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that red light cameras are unconstitutional because the tickets were linked to a driver’s license, not to the motorist who committed the violation. Minneapolis city officials were forced to refund millions of dollars after the court ruled the law unconstitutional.

Supporters of the new bill say they think technology will address those concerns because the cameras will capture pictures of both the license plate and the motorist.

“It’s very controversial, but we just don’t want to give up on it,” said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, the chief author of the bill in the House.

Hausman said she’s pushing the legislation because she wants to reduce accidents at dangerous intersections. She said city officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul have not taken a position on the bill but said St. Cloud officials have expressed interest.

“It is a matter with people thinking they can get away with breaking the law,” Hausman said. “The problem is people die when that happens. The stakes are high enough for me.”

The stakes are also high for opponents of the legislation.

“This technology is wrong. You need to have somebody hand somebody a ticket,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Samuelson said he has major questions about the proposed legislation. In particular, how would governments enforce the law if the owner of a vehicle isn’t the person in the photograph?

Samuelson said the ACLU intends to lobby against the legislation and is prepared to go further if it’s enacted into law.

“We would oppose this by any means necessary, but we would rather not undergo the cost of a lawsuit and have everyone else, government wise, pay for the costs of a lawsuit. We think this should just go away,” he said.

Supporters of the bill say they think they’ll be able to address the constitutional issues involving the bill as it goes through the committee process. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Policy Committee.

  • John O.

    Oh puhleeze, Rep. Hausman. Let’s talk about an ATM that goes 24/7/365 and keeps on going.

    Reduce accidents? Maybe. I suspect there will be some really good footage that the insurance companies can use if this passes.

  • aloysious farquart

    In 2007 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that red light cameras are unconstitutional because the tickets were linked to a driver’s license, not to the motorist who committed the violation.

    Then the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled incorrectly; RLC tickets are linked to the registered vehicle owners, like parking tickets.

    Is there any news on how MN is progressing on refunding 50 years of those…?

    “The first thing we must recognize is that crashes are not accidents.”

    -Ricardo Martinez, M.D., NHTSA Administrator, 1997

  • http://www.motorists.org James C. Walker

    Red light cameras produce enough revenue to even pay their own high costs of operation ONLY when the traffic lights are deliberately mis-engineered less-safely with yellow intervals set too short for the ACTUAL approach speeds of at least 85% of the vehicles.

    Speed cameras produce enough revenue to even pay their own high costs of operation ONLY when the posted speed limits are deliberately set less-safely at artificially low levels below the normal safe operating speeds of traffic.

    If the posted limits and traffic lights are engineered for maximum safety, the smoothest traffic flow, and the fewest accidents – then ticket cameras will not record enough violations to even pay their own high operational costs. Virtually no governments will use costly ticket cameras that lose money. The use of ticket cameras guarantees deliberately improper and less-safe mis-engineering of the speed limits and traffic lights. See our website for the science.

    If Minnesota residents do not want these predatory for-profit ticket cameras used, they need to immediately contact their Representatives and Senators to demand that the ticket cameras never be used in the state. Let your elected officials know this issue will strongly affect your future votes and you want only Representatives and Senators dedicated to never having ticket cameras in the state.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • C Michael

    As someone who lives in downtown Minneapolis and walks quite a bit, I would love to see these cameras installed. In the 2 years I’ve lived here, I’ve witnessed 4 T-bone accidents and cant count how many times I’ve almost been nailed by some red light running moron. The people who run red lights are repeat offenders and need to be made an example of. In downtown Minneapolis, these cameras would have no problem paying for themselves over a small amount of time. If these camera’s are for profit like James claims them to be, then why not make money off these schmucks who run red lights?

  • Marianne

    Ah, but it’s okay now because they can invade your privacy outside AND inside your car.

  • Curtis

    “RLC tickets are linked to the registered vehicle owners, like parking tickets.”

    Exactly. That is the problem. RLC tickets show up as a moving violation for the owner of the car, not for the driver who committed the violation. Moving violations increase the price of insurance, parking tickets do not.

    It is unconstitutional to charge an owner of a car with a moving violation unless you can prove that the owner is the one committing the infraction. RLCs don’t do that.

  • Curtis

    RLC may be okay of they can fix the right-on-red problem. Turning right on red light is legal in Minnesota. But RLCs will blindly ticket you for it, without any regard for whether a turn was safe and advisable that a real, present officer would provide.

  • Steve

    As for the comment by Curtis on February 14, 2013 12:06 PM, technology will allow the RLC to determine if the car turning right on red has made a compete stop or not. I am in favor of RLC’s and please expedite this bill! Thanks.

  • GTI BRO

    I strongly oppose this bill! I try not to run red lights, but it does happen on occasion since the duration of yellow lights varies from city to city. Let’s at least coordinate the duration of yellow lights between cities and then engineer the timing a little better on major roads before this is ever considered.