Monday, January 30, 2006

TxDOT wants red-light cameras on state roads

Two Texas cities launch red-light cameras

Jan. 30, 2006

Associated Press

PLANO, Texas - Police in Plano and Richardson have a new tool to discourage drivers from rushing through red lights.

The two cities north of Dallas planned to activate newly installed red-light cameras on Monday. They're among several cities to employ the cameras as a tool to decrease red light running and side-impact accidents.

The cameras take photos of the license plates of offending vehicles, which enables police to send citations to the vehicles' registered owners.

Opponents of the cameras argue the cameras increase rear-end collisions, serve as a "cash-cow" for cities and encroach on motorists' privacy rights. During last spring's legislative session, lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass a bill that would have banned the use of such cameras.

Plano and Richardson have identified the intersections where the cameras are placed, but Plano Lt. Jeff Wise said he hopes drivers will be more careful in all locations because they'll be unsure of the cameras' exact locations.

Both cities have a one-month warning period before they start charging $75 civil fines for red-light infractions.

Plano City Council member Sally Magnuson said most residents she's heard from support the cameras. She said privacy concerns aren't an issue for people who follow traffic laws.

"If you don't run the red light, nobody will take any pictures," she said.

Frisco plans to unveil the cameras in late February, and the Dallas City Council approved the cameras earlier this month, with plans to have them in place by August.

In Garland, which has had the cameras for more than two years, police say red-light violations have dropped by 21 percent.

The Texas Department of Transportation in December asked Attorney General Greg Abbott to decide whether the agency can install red-light cameras on traffic signals along state roads.

The state controls many traffic signals along freeway frontage roads, U.S. and state highways and farm-to-market roads. The department also wants to know how to respond to requests from cities that want to place cameras on state roads within their borders.

© 2006 The Associated Press: