Saint Louis, Mo. — Missouri’s Supreme Court announced earlier this month it would hear a case on the contentious automated right light cameras at use across the state. Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Union) has a bill at the heart of the issue.
Curtman’s pre-filed legislation, House Bill 207, would prohibit the use of red light cameras statewide if approved by Missouri voters. One win on the ballot statewide, and automated traffic cameras could become a thing of the past. Curtman’s home county, Franklin, shares a boarder with St. Charles County. There, during the August primary, voters overwhelmingly voted to ban all automated traffic cameras in their county.
“We’re seeing something here that is, for a lack of a better word, really corrupt,” Curtman said. “When a city calls someone running one of these lights on camera a non-moving violation, but an officer who sees that offense calls it a moving violation and assigns points to your license, we’re really getting away from equal protection under the law and undermining due process.”
Some local municipalities support the cameras as both good for public safety and reasonable generators of revenue. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has supported them in the past, frequently citing their statistical track record in St. Louis.
“Red light safety cameras are in place and operating in municipalities across the country,” Slay’s office wrote in a statement to press earlier this year on the Supreme Court case. “The question is not whether the cameras will operate in Missouri, but rather, how they are operated administratively. The low recidivism rate is more evidence of the cameras’ effectiveness. Eighty-Four percent of red light runners, who are cited and pay the fine for violating the City’s red light camera safety ordinance, do not get a second ticket.”
Curtman says such cameras cause plenty of accidents as well, forcing drivers to slam on their brakes for fear of a ticket.
“I can’t imagine a ruling from Supreme Court that is going to make people feel good about these cameras,” Curtman said. “They contribute to accidents. It’s been abused, it’s wound up in court, costing taxpayer dollars to determine how we use them. Its fostered distrust of people and their government.”
Rep. Dave Hinson, R-Franklin County, offered a bill last year to restrict cameras to construction zones, school zones and certain designated safety zones. Hinson said he feels allowing their unrestricted use is a mistake, but that ultimately local municipalities should be allowed to decide on their own.
“The City of Washington Missouri had red light cameras and the people in town basically rose up and got rid of them,” Hinson said. “St. Charles County abolished them. It’s truly up to local control. I do believe that there’s abuse out there and folks that use them basically as a revenue stream. That’s not the intent. It’s to reduce accidents in the area.”
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman