How Different Texas Cities Are Responding To The Red Light Ban | KERA News

How Different Texas Cities Are Responding To The Red Light Ban

Originally published on June 4, 2019 3:43 pm

Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation this weekend that outlawed the use of red light cameras.

However, there’s a loop-hole to the law.  If a municipality has a contract with a camera operator, it may continue to use the devices.

The cameras are not used in the city of San Antonio, but some suburbs have them. Leon Valley is one of those cities.

Leon Valley posted a series of videos on their website showing red light violations caught on camera.

City Manager Kelly Kuenstler told Texas Public Radio they have a contract that runs through 2038. The city plans to continue to use the 14 cameras that are in operation.

Running a red light may lead to a $75 fine, and Leon Valley has brought in about $2 million since the cameras were installed in 2017.

Kuenstler said she believes red light cameras have saved lives and prevented injuries.

"We've have some statistics that have actually been mind-boggling," she said. "Since the inception of the program, our data indicates total accidents on Bandera Road have reduced by 43%, that injury accidents have reduced by 55% and that angled accidents have reduced by 65%."

Kuenstler said while most out-of-towners passing through Leon Valley may resent the cameras, Leon Valley residents overwhelmingly approve of them.  She said a town hall survey this year showed citizen satisfaction with the cameras was at 94%.

Kuenstler also said the cameras have also reduced the burden on Leon Valley taxpayers.

Most of the red light cameras are on Bandera Road, a major link between Loop 1604 and Loop 410.

Leon Valley taxpayers were paying for crashes along Bandera Road that – 94% of the time – were not caused by Leon Valley residents, according to Kuenstler. It’s usually a driver traversing Bandera Road or passing through Leon Valley.

She said the cameras freed up officers to patrol neighborhoods.

“What we found is that by putting officers back in the neighborhoods, home burglaries are down by about 26%, vehicle burglaries are down 34%, building burglaries are down by 49%,” she said.

Humble

The City of Humble currently operates 10 red light cameras. They’ve used the cameras since 2007, and the city says it’s issued over a half-million tickets.

Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe called the program a success.

“Since its inception we have not experienced a single fatal accident at any of the intersections at which the cameras operate as a result of red-light running since that time,” Stuebe said.

He plans to keep their cameras running until 2024, when their contract is up.

Austin

Austin has also used red-light cameras for about a decade.

Austin officials argued for the past couple sessions that they serve two important purposes: They force drivers to think twice before running a red light (a public safety argument), and they allow the city to collect money that can fund improvements to Austin's sidewalks or other pedestrian-minded amenities (a fiscal argument).

Currently, the cameras are at 10 intersections, and the Austin Police Department estimated they've reduced crashes at those intersections by 41 percent.

Opponents argued the cameras violate due process; that a scan of a license plate isn't enough because a light-running driver may not hold the title to a vehicle and, therefore, could leave that title-holder responsible when it comes time to pay up.

Houston

Houston used to have red light cameras but voters decided to turn them off several years ago.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

KUT and HPM contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.