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A Bedford Lawmaker Wants A Statewide Ban On Red Light Cameras


More than 11,000 residents in Arlington have signed a petition to remove the city's red light cameras. The City Council voted Tuesday to put the issue on the May ballot. 

But a Republican state House member from Bedford wants to go a step further. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland filed a bill for a statewide ban on red light cameras -- and he sat down with KERA to talk about why he wants to eliminate the cameras.  

The cameras, in place in several Texas cities for a decade or so, have been controversial. Some officials say the cameras improve safety at intersections. But others raise privacy concerns. And some critics say the cameras are just a way for cities to raise money. Motorists are typically issued $75 fines -- revenue that's split up among the camera operator, city and state.

Interview Highlights With State Rep. Stickland

Why he opposes red light cameras: Number one, I think they’re unconstitutional. I believe the constitution gives us the right to face our accuser in court. Obviously, it’s hard to do that against equipment. I think there’s a lot of privacy issues. Most of the cities and municipalities that use these cameras have become addicted to the revenue instead of any aspect of public safety. And the data is in. As far as I’m concerned, they have not proven to stop crashes. They have certainly helped to T-bones (car crashes), but what they haven’t taken into account are the folks who are now slamming on their brakes, trying to make sure they do not get a ticket. We have a large increase in rear-end collisions as a result of the red light cameras.

Why a statewide ban instead of local control: In theory I’m for local control, but not when it’s in regard to personal liberty or the constitution. I view the state as an active participant in defending the rights of all Texans, and I don’t think we should leave constitutional issues up for local cities to decide. It needs to be something we guard at the national, state and local level as much as possible.

A safety alternative to red light cameras: One thing I think we need to do in general is start promoting a community sense of personal responsibility. None of us should ever be a position where we depend on the government to keep us safe. There’s no amount of laws that can stop “stupid,” if you will. And we need to start taking personal responsibility and start committing to each other that we’re going to be more responsible on the road.

For more information

From the Fort Worth Star-TelegramArlington council to decide if red light camera ban will be on May ballot

From The Texas Tribune: Red light camera locations in Texas and statistics from 2008 to 2009

Here's more red light camera coverage from The Texas Tribune.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.