Red-light cameras are about revenue, not safety, says senator pushing ban

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Thumbnail image for 36th and quebec.jpg
36th & Quebec.
Red light photo tickets are a hot topic in Denver, with councilwomen Jeanne Faatz and Mary Beth Susman both questioning the program, especially as it applies to citations for crossing the white stop line -- an infraction whose fine was halved this week, but not eliminated.

Now, the issue could make a stir statewide thanks to a new bill backed by Senator Scott Renfroe.

If approved, Senate Bill 50, which is tentatively scheduled to go before the transportation committee on February 7, will "ban red-light cameras and the use of photos of traffic violations for ticketing people, as well as the data base for that information," Renfroe says.

In some ways, Renfroe is an unlikely backer for such a measure. After all, he notes, "I'm a local control guy" -- one reason Liberty Watch named him a Guardian of Liberty, along with nine other fellow Republicans, at a ceremony this week. However, he adds, "I think this is a statewide concern. I think we need to make it uniform across the state. And right now, I think it's pretty clear that what's going on in some cities -- not all of them, but some of them -- is that this is a revenue-generator. And it needs to be about safety."

scott renfroe.jpg
Scott Renfroe.
In Renfroe's view, "there are a lot of ways a city can engineer safety into intersections without red light cameras -- things cities can do to make intersections safer without using Big Brother tactics."

Example: "There was a Texas transportation study that looked at three years' worth of police reports at 180 intersections in Texas that had a lot of issues with red light accidents. They found that making the yellow light one second longer reduced accidents by half, and shortening the yellow light by one second doubled the number of accidents."

Data like this suggests to Renfroe that red-light cameras are mainly about money -- and he understands how cities can become addicted to such cash infusions. "They're getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar," he maintains. "In Denver, they voted to cut down their white-line fee, but why not go one step further and refund people they gave tickets to and collected all that money? It's absurd the type of tickets they're handing out, and the exponential growth in the number of them since they recalibrated their equipment. That shows this is revenue-driven."

Renfroe has not personally received such a ticket, and he notes that there aren't any red-light cameras in his district. (He represents much of Weld County, including Greeley.) "But I have constituents send me bill ideas every day," he continues, "and I think this one came from e-mails last summer. I mentioned the idea at an event at CSU, and people there were very supportive."

They've got plenty of company on both sides of the ideological aisle, Renfroe believes. "I don't think this should be a partisan issue," he says. "I think this should be a safety issue. And since the bill was announced, I've had an overwhelming number of e-mails coming in, even from Democrats who'll explain, 'I support you on this.' So I definitely think this is an issue where we should be able to come together and put some common sense into what we're doing."

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More from our News archive: "Top 5 biggest speed traps in Denver."

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Cameras give a false sense of safety, because even with a$500 fine (Calif.) they can't stop the real late running that occurs whensomeone is lost, distracted, confused or impaired. The mere presence of a cameracan't stop the real late runners because the runners don't know (a tourist), ordon't remember, that there's a camera up ahead. They're not doing it onpurpose!

To stop them, improve the visual cues that say"Intersection ahead." Florida's DOT found that pavement markings(paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signals brighter, bigger, addbackboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the intersection. Putbrighter bulbs in the street lights at signals, and lighted name signs for thecross streets.

Who needs cameras? But even with cameras, do the visual cues. They are cheap to do so canbe done citywide, unlike cameras which are ineffective against the real laterunners, increase rearenders, drive shoppers/tourists away, and send localmoney to Oz, AZ or NY (Goldman-Sachs) where it won't come back.

Bob Smith
Bob Smith

I like the idea of local rule - but the cynical nature of Denver's expansion of its program makes me support this.

Blame it on the contractor "recalibrating" its equipment, Denver says. 

Never admit that someone in the DPD or the Mgr of Safety's ofc or the Mayor's ofc either requested this "recalibration" or approved it after the fact, without going to City Council. That way high bureaucrats and politicians don't have to admit to being out of touch, or ignorant.

Only in the narrow world view of law enforcement are equal penalties for blowing through a red light and encroaching on a crosswalk a safety issue not a speed trap.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

PEOPLE- You do not have to pay any photo ticket unless it is personally served to you within 90 days. CRS 42-4-110.5(a)(II) requires the complaint to served (personally handed to you) NO LATER THAN 90 DAYS.

If they don't follow the rules, then don't pay.


Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting post, Henry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong post, Bob -- one we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats, and thanks for weighing in.


Thats easily said than done.  If we don't pay or go to court regarding it,  then whose to say they send out  a notice that my license is suspended. 

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

I did it. I went over a white line and got a mail ticket. That was last year. No issues since. Law requires personal service. They have to physically hand you a ticket per COLORADO LAW. If they don't follow their own rules, then they can't force you to pay. 

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