Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said it’s time to turn off red light cameras across Texas.
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.
But Monday, in McAllen, Abbott issued a 21-page report — Safeguarding, Securing, Serving — calling for policies he would support if he’s re-elected to a second term in November.
Among his proposals: cracking down on gangs, disrupting human trafficking and smuggling, keeping peace officers safe and “strengthening the rights of Texas drivers.”
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“Red light cameras are automated devices for red light traffic enforcement,” according to Abbott’s report summary. “They are expensive, studies indicate that they may increase accidents where deployed, and they pose constitutional issues.
“Texas should ban the use of these devices by preempting local authority to utilize them.”
Abbott faces Democrat Lupe Valdez in the Nov. 6 election.
His report comes as some lawmakers already were planning to draft legislation to turn the cameras off. The legislative session begins in January.
Nearly two dozen states in the U.S. allow the cameras, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
How they work
Cameras are set so vehicles entering intersections after the light has turned red — and those that don’t stop 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.
Arlington residents passed a measure three years ago to turn the cameras off in their city.
A similar effort began in Fort Worth, but the move this year to gather more than 20,000 signatures on petitions asking city leaders to put the issue on the ballot in November fell short.
“Red light cameras have been like the white whale for many conservatives who have tried to ban them in Texas by arguing they harm individual liberty or are unconstitutional,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Eliminating red light cameras is a low cost way to appeal to conservative legislators whom the governor will need to pass his agenda.”
To pay or not?
Critics have long argued that anyone who received red light cameras shouldn’t pay them.
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.
Some Texas counties, such as Dallas, flag motorists with unpaid red-light tickets and block their vehicle registrations until the tickets are paid.
Tarrant County does not block vehicle registration for unpaid light camera fines.
But any tickets left unpaid will trigger reminder notices and repeat notices that a $25 late fee will be added to the bill. And accounts with unpaid tickets may be flagged, which likely will block online registrations.
Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright said anyone who has an account that is flagged may go to any of the eight local tax assessor collector offices. There, they will be allowed — in person — to renew their registration no matter how many unpaid red light tickets they have.