Fort Worth

A Fort Worth effort to kill red light cameras fails, but will the state pull the plug?

Red light cameras can be found in cities across Texas.
Red light cameras can be found in cities across Texas. Star-Telegram archives

The days of red light cameras in Texas may be numbered.

Organizers of a petition drive to have the cameras shut off in Fort Worth say their effort to gain enough signatures to put the issue on a ballot "fizzled," but they hope the Texas Legislature will take up the issue next year.

They want state lawmakers once and for all to ban these cameras, which generate millions of dollars each year for Texas and its cities.

"If we can't kill this at the ballot box, we can kill this at the pocketbook," said Kelly Canon of Arlington, who led a successful effort to have red light cameras shut off in Arlington three years ago. "We are looking at the Legislature to get rid of all the red light cameras, not just those in Fort Worth."

Many believe the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to more rear-end accidents at intersections with cameras. Others say they make streets safer and generate needed revenue for cities across the state.

Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke said the cameras aren't geared to be a money maker for the city.

"I understand the arguments against red light cameras," he said. "But we think red light cameras serve a purpose in making intersections safer."

Cameras are set so vehicles entering intersections after the light has turned red — and those that don’t stop long enough before making a right turn on a red light — are photographed. Vehicles entering the intersection on yellow that are still in the intersection when the light turns red are not photographed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

After each offense, a $75 ticket is automatically sent to the car’s owner.

Fed up with the cameras, Canon spearheaded the effort to gather more than 20,000 signatures on petitions to ask Fort Worth City Council members to put the issue on the ballot in November. The goal was to let voters decide whether the cameras that have been up since 2008 should stay.

"It is dead because of the lack of volunteers and a lack of motivation," Canon said. "Fort Worth should be disappointed in Fort Worth."

In May 2015, Arlington voters opted to shut down the cameras, 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.

Fort Worth City Councilman Cary Moon said he "was kind of rooting for them to get the signatures to get a vote on the issue," even though he said he sees arguments on both sides of the issue.

"I like the petition option," he said. "There's a reason it requires the amount of work it does. I'm glad they gave it a good shot."

Pay up?

Not everyone pays the red light camera tickets they receive. And critics stress that no one should.

Red light camera tickets are civil violations, unlike speeding, which is criminal.

That means they don’t show up on driving records or impact insurance rates. And these unpaid tickets can’t be reported to a credit bureau, so credit ratings aren't impacted.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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