Governor Greg Abbott is receiving attention across the country for signing a ban on red light cameras in the nation’s second largest state. In a bill that was authored by Jonathan Strickland (R- Plano), towns will have to end the practice of monitoring intersections and ticketing drivers through a photographic camera.
Red light cameras have been controversial in Texas politics for over three years and have taken heat in cities around the country for over the last decade. Abbott and Strickland, in this year’s legislature, centered their opposition around privacy concerns. Strickland made the case that the heart of a democratic society is being able to face your accuser in court, something that cannot be done if a camera is the one to ticket a driver.
“The number one reason for this is privacy concerns. We think that the right to due process matters. You have the right to face your accuser in court,” Strickland said.
Although many people in Texas are overjoyed by the development, it may not all be all positive. Red light cameras are disliked by many but their effectiveness in saving lives is almost unmatched.
In Little Elm specifically, officials are weary about ending a program that heightens traffic safety. Town residents have labeled traffic problems as their main concern as Little Elm boosts their population. Deaths along the U.S. 380 thoroughfare have people spooked and asking for more police presence in a poll that was taken just last week by the Journal.
“Little Elm’s Red Light Camera traffic enforcement program has ended to comply with the new law. We certainly have some concerns with the program ending,” Town Manager Matt Mueller said. “The 380 corridor is an extremely busy thoroughfare, and we hear regularly from residents of Little Elm and the surrounding areas regarding their concerns about safety and traffic on that roadway.”
In a study performed by the Fears Nachawati law firm, red light cameras reduced fatal crashes by over 30 percent. The majority of deaths that result in drivers running red lights are pedestrians, bikers and passengers in the opposing cars. The law firm, in the same study, found that overall accidents dropped by 14 percent in cities that installed red light cameras. It was estimated that in 2014, 719 deaths were avoided and 126,000 injuries were stopped in those cities that used the technology.
“Although the red light camera program was controversial, it was very effective in reducing the number of vehicles that ran the red lights in areas where cameras were located. The revenue collected from those who received tickets from running red lights also went into a fund to pay for additional LEPD traffic officer who patrolled the area,” Mueller said.
From here on out, Mueller believes the job will get more difficult for police to monitor traffic. The town will have to deploy different methods to meet the demands of safety.
“LEPD strives to maintain an active presence along the 380 corridor and use every tool in their toolbox to increase traffic safety along our stretch of roadway. Bottom line- the new legislation has affected the safety of the corridor, given our police department more to do, and fewer resources to do it with,” Mueller said.