Red-light cameras will soon be a thing of the past in Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott has signed legislation to phase out the use of red-light cameras in Texas.
Cities typically contract with private companies to monitor busy intersections using such automated red-light cameras that photograph drivers who are illegally within intersections when traffic lights are red. In turn, local governments get a cut of the revenues from the automated tickets that are issued.
As a result of the bill outlawing red-light cameras in the state, HB 1631, Texas will lose about $28 million for trauma facilities and emergency medical services in 2020-21, according to a review of the bill by the Legislative Budget Board. The bill will result in the same amount of revenue losses for municipalities in Texas, the analysis found.
Red-light cameras have proved controversial in many parts of the nation, where critics say their use is unconstitutional and can actually increase the incidence of rear-end collisions at camera-monitored intersections. That’s because drivers might be more apt to stop abruptly at those intersections when the yellow light flashes in order to avoid a citation, critics say.
That’s the position of the National Motorists Association, which points to studies by media organizations concluding that accidents increase at such intersections.
Representatives of Texas cities and police departments, as well as the Texas affiliate of the American Automobile Association, testified against HB 1631 during House Transportation Committee hearings earlier this year. Supporters of the bill, authored by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, included Texans for Toll-free Highways and the Texas Campaign for Liberty.
Since the bill passed both the House and Senate by greater than two-thirds majorities, it became law immediately when Abbott signed it on Saturday.
But that doesn’t mean red-light cameras will cease operation immediately in all cities. The bill contains a grandfather clause allowing those cities that are under contract with private companies to continue to operate red-light cameras until the contracts run out.
Under the new law, Texas counties will also no longer be able to deny auto registrations to drivers who have unpaid tickets issued through red-light camera systems.
A better way to reduce accidents at intersections is through better traffic engineering and signal improvements, according to a National Motorists Association fact sheet.
Some studies argue that red-light cameras reduce so-called T-bone crashes, but others point to a rise in rear-end accidents. And critics say red-light systems are seen more as revenue generators for local governments, rather than as traffic-safety tools.
In addition to Texas, seven other states – Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia – ban the use of red-light cameras, according to a 2016 tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Opponents of red-light cameras contend that they provide no real accuser for ticketed motorists to challenge and thus go against constitutional norms. In addition, they typically image license plates but don’t provide images of drivers, meaning that a car’s owner can be falsely accused if another person is actually at the wheel, according to the Motorists Association.