A petition-driven referendum that would allow Arlington voters to determine the future of the city’s red-light cameras appears to be on track for the May 9 ballot.
That’s as it should be.
Since Texas passed a law allowing use of the cameras about a decade ago, individual cities, which are best-positioned to determine if and where red-light cameras are needed, have been allowed to make those decisions.
That shouldn’t change.
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Legislators should reject efforts by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, to remove that authority from local policymakers and voters. The two lawmakers would ban the use of photographic traffic signal enforcement systems in Texas.
It’s true that area residents have quibbled for years over the cameras, which have been placed at many intersections.
Opponents say they violate privacy and are little more than a means for state and local government to generate tax revenue.
Texas collected upwards of $16.2 million last year from violators, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. That doesn’t include the portion of fines kept by cities and camera contractors.
Advocates insist the cameras have led to reduced accidents and saved lives. Reporting by the Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley found that accidents at intersections where 58 red-light cameras are operating in Fort Worth are a fraction of what they were in the months before the cameras were in use.
The case for public safety is compelling, although we support the rights of area voters to seek a policy change they feel is justified.
There are legitimate concerns that red-light tickets have become an unfair tax on some recipients, namely those who pay them.
Many people don’t pay, and county officials have refused to block vehicle registrations or use other enforcement tools against scofflaws.
It’s estimated that only about 60 percent of tickets are actually paid, making the cameras increasingly ineffective.
While localities should retain the right to use or reject red-light cameras, they shouldn’t employ them unless they intend to find ways to enforce the fines.