DENVER (AP) — Republican lawmakers want to ban red-light cameras in Colorado, saying municipalities are using them as revenue boosters that do little for traffic safety.
A bill introduced this week would prohibit cities and towns from using the automated traffic enforcement devices on streets or highways, joining several other states that have done so already. There’s dispute over whether cameras that capture speeding would also be banned.
“I think when you look at the role of government within this, we should be about safety and not about generating revenue,” Weld County Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe, the sponsor of the bill, said Friday. “And I think the data is really starting to fall out that red-light cameras are more of a revenue source than increase of safety.”
The Colorado Municipal League, which represents more than 250 communities in the state, opposes the proposed legislation, saying municipalities should decide own their own what to do about red-light cameras.
Colorado Springs recently decided to eliminate its red-light program. Officials said the program did not meet safety expectations and that the three employees assigned to it were needed elsewhere.
“And that’s good. That’s a local decision,” said Mark Radtke, CML’s legislative advocate.
In Denver, the city council recently discussed concerns about the program from drivers who complained they were being unfairly ticketed. The drivers said they were being ticketed for stopping past white crosswalk lines. A city audit showed that programming the cameras to catch drivers who stopped past the white line resulted in an increase of more than 400 percent in revenues.
Renfroe said his intention is to ban only the red-light cameras, but Radtke said the bill also strikes the language that allows municipalities to use cameras for speeding.
Radtke said Fort Collins has successfully used speeding cameras to increase compliance. But Renfroe said he didn’t think that told the whole story.
“I think they’re hiding behind the safety issue so they can collect the revenue,” he said.
The bill would still allow the use of cameras on toll roads and highways to assess charges.
Renfroe argued that municipalities should consider modifying their traffic lights so that yellow lights longer, something he says research has shown improves safety.
Nine states have passed laws banning the use of photo traffic enforcement, including Arkansas, Montana, New Jersey and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL said that more than 400 communities in the country use red-light cameras.
Republican Sen. Kevin Grantham, who represents rural southern Colorado, said having the automated traffic enforcement is unnecessary.
“Ultimately, I think it infringes upon our rights and our privacy. Just a little a bit too much `Big Brother.’ Bottom line,” he said.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)