Red-light-camera bill dies: Senator still doubts devices make intersections safer

Thumbnail image for 36th and quebec.jpg
36th & Quebec.
Last month, we spoke with Senator Scott Renfroe, sponsor of Senate Bill 50, which would have banned red-light cameras at intersections, as well as the use of photos for issuing tickets.

However, the measure failed to get out of the Senate's transportation committee, despite what Renfroe thought was a compelling case against the gadgets.

Renfroe sees red-light cameras as being more about generating revenue than enhancing safety -- and he believes that other methods can be more effective when it comes to reducing crashes. For instance, a study in Texas showed that accidents at given intersections were halved simply by keeping the yellow light on for one second longer. In contrast, shortening the yellow light doubled pile-ups.

scott renfroe.jpg
Senator Scott Renfroe.
Nonetheless, numerous law-enforcement representatives testified against Renfroe's bill, and he believes "the committee liked what the police officers had to say about the cameras -- and they didn't really listen to the other studies or to the citizens.

"The question I had for every department that testified against the bill was, 'What other engineering have you done at your intersections?'" he continues. "And I never really got an answer from anyone other than Cherry Hills, who said they hadn't done anything else. There are a lot of things that appear to help safety, including extending yellow lights and putting in better, brighter lights. But the studies we presented didn't sway the committee at all."

Safety is Renfroe's primary focus, he stresses -- but it's not the only one. "Obviously, there are concerns about Big Brother and government. There's the question of 'Are we going too far with this and encroaching on people's privacy and the right to address your accuser?' It's kind of crazy when you look at the system and what we have in place: They send you a ticket in the mail and people pay it without questioning it when you don't really have to pay it. If it doesn't go on your record and doesn't go on your insurance -- if it doesn't do any of these things -- then why are we collecting money on it?"

The cash will keep flowing in the near term: The committee defeated the bill by a five-to-two margin, with Senator Steve King specifying that his "no" vote was motivated by his preference for local control -- the desire to let individual communities decide if red-light cameras are right for them. But Renfroe says he'll continue to do research into the subject with an eye toward potentially raising it again in the future.

"I was disappointed to see it go down," he acknowledges. "Other states seem to be moving away from this, and hopefully Colorado will continue to look at it."

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2 comments
Tina Huston
Tina Huston

These politicians have these red light cameras for the purpose of generating revenue and for violating our 4th Amendment rights.  Big brother is always watching.  They could care less about public safety.  The politicians who voted against Renfroes ban need to be arrested, tried, and punished as traitors for not protecting our Constitution.  They take oaths to protect our Constitution.

These politicians forget that they are PUBLIC SERVANTS and have an obligation to administer the WILL OF THE PEOPLE, not their priorities.  There is a misperception that politicians are supposed to do what is in the people's best interest.  Wrong.  They are not hired to be mommies and daddies or legal guardians of the people.  There are to administer the will of the people whether it's in the people's best interests or not.  If the people decide later that things should change, then it's the public servants responsibility to administer THAT will.  That is what the Constitution provides to us.  People have it all skewed, and I don't understand why the people continue to allow politicians to violate our Constitution.I applause Renfroe for not being a sheep like the rest of them and trying to protect our rights.  I hope he tries again and takes more of the position that our 4th Amendment rights are being violated.

lunkwill
lunkwill

The intersection at 60th and Vasquez in Commerce City, according to the judge at my court hearing two years ago, is the most fatal intersection in Colorado, with more deaths and crashes than any other intersection in the state.  He addressed the entire courtroom with this information, because according to him, nearly half of the courtroom were there for "running a red light" at this intersection.  He knew the intersection well, as if normal law-abiding citizens suddenly all became crazed criminals at the same left turn from 60th onto Vasquez.  Not poor design, of course, but spontaneously criminal citizenry.

He also informed us that to solve the problem, in the coming months they were going to install loads of red light cameras at this intersection (which they have since done), to replace their current method of hiding motorcycle cops in various locations around the intersection.

This is a five way intersection, perhaps one of the most poorly designed intersections I have ever seen, and apparently many people have died because of it.  I went back to take pictures, (as my ticket was bogus), and noted that the intersection was so huge, it takes nearly 8 seconds for most vehicles to make the entire left turn west from 60th onto Vasquez. I also noticed, alarmingly, that the yellow turn arrow - the caution light - took a ridiculous 2.5 seconds to go from yellow to red.  This is nearly half the time of most other yellow lights, and means that drivers, every single cycle, despite entering the intersection ON A GREEN TURN ARROW, are left in the middle of the intersection driving against a red light, while oncoming (often trucker) traffic has a green light.  This "quick-switch" yellow light also means that drivers are continually baited to believe they have enough time to make the yellow light (based on their experience with any other normal yellow light), and are suddenly caught by a quick-switching red light, ensuring them both a ticket from the hidden police cruisers that always seem to be present, and placement in the direct path of oncoming traffic.

I bring this up because the Commerce City judge inadvertently pointed out something obvious and terrifying at the same time when he indicated that their "solution" to this 5-way circus intersection with super short yellow lights was not going to be safety improvement, but to install a wealth of red light cameras (pun intended) - instead of the much cheaper, much more obvious, and much safer solution of simply increasing the yellow light caution time to a reasonable length.

You see, the city doesn't care if you die, so much as they care about the influx of your money.

To "improve" the safety of the intersection by withholding actual safety mechanisms, and instead making "increased revenue for the city" the only deterrent towards getting caught and potentially dying in their rigged intersection, means the city has only improved their pocketbook, not the safety of their citizens.

I mean really, using that "fine people instead of having safety mechanisms" logic, perhaps we should remove all the guard rails from highways and simply fine people for driving off cliffs.

How about doing something reasonable to help PREVENT potentially deadly crashes instead of letting them happen and then cashing in on it.  Maybe it's me, but I don't see how a dead driver receiving a posthumous traffic citation will solve the problem...

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