AUSTIN, Texas – On Saturday, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, officially signed legislation banning red-light cameras across the State of Texas. The legislation, House Bill 1631, prohibits the use of “photographic traffic signal enforcement systems.”
The bill, initially proposed by North Texas Rep. Jonathan Strickland (R-Bedford), will ultimately do away with the $75 fine associated with red light camera violations.
In a video posted to Twitter, Governor Abbott, sitting at the Capitol, gave followers a close-up look at the last step the bill needed to become law—his signature. A few seconds later, Abbott held up the bill with his signature as proof that the bill is now law
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 1, 2019
“Hi, Governor Abbott here at the capitol on Saturday, signing bills,” he stated. And just like that, the bill “is now law,” he proclaimed.
Why Texas Hates Red-Light Cameras
Since the cameras became legal in 2007, state lawmakers have proposed, unsuccessfully, turning off these cameras.
It’s A Violation of Due Process Provided under the U.S. Constitution
For years, critics have long believed that these cameras violate the U.S. Constitution, ultimately leading to rear-end accidents.
“Red-light cameras violate the right to due process guaranteed under Article 1 of the Texas Constitution by creating a presumption that the registered owner of the car committed a violation when in fact that may not have been the case,” said state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who is sponsoring the legislation originally offered by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.
However, a recent study from Case Western Reserve University, which examined traffic accidents from Texas cities during a 12-year period, pointed to “no evidence of a reduction in total accidents or injuries,” due to red light cameras. In actuality, the study found rear-end accidents increased.
Supporters, however, believe they make the streets safer and generate needed money for cities and the state. Several North Texas police chiefs have expressed their distaste for removing the devices, believing it to be a mistake.
“If removed, you are removing a tool from our ability to address health and safety needs in the community,” said Bedford Police Chief, Jeff Gibson, in an interview with CBS 11 I-Team.
“Our city is safer because of those cameras,” said Duncanville Police Chief, Robert Brown. “The cameras have worked as far as I’m concerned.”
The Money From These Programs Helps Reduce Traffic Incidents. Or Does It?
As for revenue generation for the cities, Bedford seems to be the exception, having lost money from its red-light traffic program. For the other 22 North Texas cities, state records reveal profit.
After expenses and after giving the state its half of the profits, the City of Dallas made $1.9 million in 2017 from its red-light camera program.
Plano, profiting with $2.6 million, made more than any other Texas city from its program in 2017.
In 2017, cities in North Texas collected a total of $47 million in red light camera fines.
It was not until Abbott weighed in on the issue that the push to ban red light cameras gained new life and momentum. Last year, Governor Abbott wrote a report explaining that not only were the cameras costly, but they “pose[d] constitutional issues,” and “Texas should ban the use of these devices.”
Since taking office in 2013, this is the first bill Strickland passed through the Legislature, quickly tweeting his request to the governor back in May:
“The bill to ban red light cameras just passed the Senate and is headed your way @GregAbbott_TX.” “Would love your quick signature on it so we can restore our Constitutional rights!”
Previously, under Texas law, vehicles entering intersections monitored by the cameras are photographed if they enter after the light has turned red. After the offense, a $75 ticket is mailed to the car’s owner.
When Do They Go Away?
It’s important to note that while red light cameras are now banned in the Lone Star State, residents may continue to see them in some areas over the next few years. A recent amendment added to the bill allows cities, like Fort Worth, to continue operating the cameras until their contracts with those vendors expire. Why? There are penalties for breaching these contracts early.
But Fort Worth residents may see disappear sooner than that. In Fort Worth, there are 58 red light cameras at 44 intersections. The city contracts with Verra Mobility, formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, to run the cameras. While the contract expires in 2026, city attorney, Sarah Fullenwider, told the Star-Telegram earlier this week that the city’s contract with the vendor would end as soon as Governor Abbott signed the bill.
A second amendment to the bill was added, preventing county and state officials from refusing to register a vehicle simply because the owner has unpaid red-light camera tickets:
Dallas County, for example, flag accounts with unpaid red-light tickets and prevent those vehicle registrations from being renewed until the tickets are paid.
Yet, Tarrant County, according to Tax Assessor-Collector, Wendy Burgess, continues to allow registration renewals in person, regardless of the number of unpaid red light tickets a person has on their account.
Just remember, this isn’t an excuse to see who can go ‘Fast and Furious’ through intersections. Please abide by the rules of the road.