Saturday, June 16, 2007

TxDOT studies Big Brother speed traps on state highways

TxDOT plans to use cameras to track speeding drivers


by Christine DeLoma
Volume 11, Issue 42
The Lone Star Report
Copyright 2007

Despite the widespread opposition among legislators over use of automated speed cameras to ticket drivers, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is moving full speed ahead to study the use of such cameras on state highways.

Lawmakers in May voted to prohibit the practice after hearing constituents complain about receiving speeding tickets in the mail from automated cameras set up in two Texas cities.

If Gov. Rick Perry signs HB 922 by Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller), municipalities like Marble Falls and Rhome will no longer be able to use automated speed cameras.

Marble Falls had set up a “speed van” equipped with a radar device that captured how fast a car was going — this in addition to a camera that took snapshots of drivers’ licenses plates. Violators were sent citations in the mail.

The legislation, however, does not apply to areas outside city limits.

In April, TxDOT began looking for a vendor to install, operate and maintain an “automated speed notification” test program. Cameras would be installed on Interstate Highway 10 in Hudspeth County, State Highway 6 between College Station and Navasota and between Bryan and College Station.

“This is a TxDOT-initiated study… in the name of safety,” said Mark Cross, agency spokesman.

Marble Falls disabled its program after TxDOT complained it was unsafe for the city to use the device on the state’s right of ways.

Upon learning of TxDOT’s intention to set up automated cameras as part of a six-month pilot study, Marble Falls mayor Raymond Whitman called the move “hypocritical,” as reported in the Daily Tribune.

Unlike Marble Falls’ set up, TxDOT would use two cameras — one to photograph motorists as they enter a stretch of highway, the other camera would photograph when they exit the area. The system would then calculate the average speed between the two points on the road. Anyone caught driving 5 miles per hour over the maximum speed limit are flagged.

Because it’s only a pilot program, violators would not be ticketed, but would be sent a warning notice in the mail that they were speeding.

Cross said study costs are capped at $2.5 million, to be paid with state tax dollars.

Given the legislature’s opposition to municipalities’ using the technology to ticket speeders, it is unclear if the results of TxDOT’s study would sway lawmakers to implement a statewide policy.

“I can’t speak for the legislature,” Cross said. “All I can say is that this is our initiative to go out and study the technology to evaluate its usefulness, period.”

Nonetheless, Cross noted that TxDOT would not implement such a program, because it lacks the authority to issue citations.

© 2007 The Lone Star Report:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE