Red-light camera use in Texas is nearing its death. One state lawmaker wants to put the final nail in the coffin.
In 2019, state lawmakers approved and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill to prohibit cities from using photo systems to fine drivers for running red lights.
The rule change took effect immediately. However, a provision was included in HB1631 permitting cities to continue ticket system contracts until they expire.
Nearly all of the 57 communities throughout Texas that employed red-light cameras took advantage of “early out clauses” in their contracts to end programs when Abbott enacted the new rule. The clause permitted locales to nullify agreements when the state banned the ticketing machines.
Handful of communities continued programs
Four locales around the state continued with their red-light camera programs due to contract clauses that do not permit early outs.
The cities of Balcones Heights and Leon Valley in the San Antonio area acted to extend contracts in time to beat the legislative deadline. The extended programs run through 2034 and 2039, respectively.
Elsewhere, the city of Humble must continue its ticketing program through June 2024.
The contract for the city of Amarillo’s program expired in August.
Rep. Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio, has filed legislation for the upcoming regular session to nix the continuing red-light camera contracts.
His bill, HB177, would void contracts that remain in effect throughout the state.
The change would take effect immediately if it receives a two-thirds vote by the legislature. Passage that does not meet the vote necessary for immediate effect would delay the effective date until Sept. 1.
The bill can be considered once the legislature convenes Jan. 10.
Justification for canceling ticket programs
Abbott’s administration released a report in 2018 outlining factors for eliminating red-light cameras. His office noted that while side-impact collisions were reduced, there was a heightened likelihood of rear-end collisions due to sudden braking.
The governor’s staff also highlighted the cost to operate camera systems. The report said posting cameras at one intersection can cost $100,000.
“They are expensive, studies indicate that they may increase accidents where deployed, and they pose constitutional issues,” the report stated. “Texas should ban the use of these devices by preempting local authority to utilize them.”
Texas lawmakers acted on the issue the following year.
Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the focus on the revenue-generating devices ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic: keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible. LL