Dayton, Ohio Red-light CameraThe Colorado state Senate is expected to hear a bill next week that would ban red light cameras in the state, according to an editorial in the Longmont Times-Call, which supports the bill. The cameras are intended to take photos of drivers violating the law, but opponents of the cameras say they exist to make money for municipalities and lead to “zealous enforcement,” the Times-Call writes. Those who oppose the bill and support the cameras include police, who say traffic enforcement cameras are necessary to make the roads safer, as Kurtis Lee reports for The Denver Post.

The bill, proposed by Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, was approved in a 3-2 vote by a Senate committee last week after being amended to exempt state toll roads, Lee writes. It is expected to be approved next week on the Senate floor, the Times-Call editorial says. Lee writes that it is also expected that the Senate will further amend it.

The Denver Post quotes Cmdr. Dustin Varney of the Greenwood Village Police Department as saying:

‘All of our research, all of our data and all of our statistical review from 2005, when we put red-light cameras in place, has shown they significantly decrease the total overall number of accidents at those intersections.’

Varney added that because Colorado is a “home-rule” state, municipalities should have the right to decide if the cameras are effective. He was one of about a dozen police who testified against the bill, Lee writes.

Bill sponsor Guzman criticized Denver for making money from the cameras “when a vehicle’s tires ‘simply touch the white crosswalk line,’ ” Lee reports. And co-sponsor Renfroe said, “intersections should be about safety, not money,” Lee writes. Ten Colorado cities use the cameras, according to the Times-Call. You can see a list of the 141 red light cameras in the state by doing a search here.

Denver made about $7.8 million in 2013 from about 35,000 red-light photo tickets and almost 195,000 speeding photo tickets, Lee writes, while Greenwood Village (which has no photo speeding tickets) earned $595,000 last year from its three red light cameras. Varney said accidents have decreased significantly since the cameras were installed, pointing out that there were 40 car accidents at the intersection of Belleview Avenue and Quebec Street in 2013, as compared with 74 accidents at that intersection in 2005, Lee writes.

Calling the cameras “a matter of life and death,” Curtis Garrett, vice chairman of Denver’s Commission for People with Disabilities, was quoted as saying:

‘If a car pulls into an intersection and a person who is blind or in a wheelchair has to go around them, they can easily get clipped by other cars driving through that intersection.’

In the comment section of the Denver Post article, a commenter named terrydenver writes that Australia, which has some of the lowest road deaths per capita of any developed country, has had red-light speed cameras for decades, and recently introduced cameras so sophisticated that they can detect when drivers are texting. The state of Victoria in Australia, terrydenver writes, has less than half the number of deaths on the roads as Colorado, despite Victoria’s population of more than 7 million as compared with Colorado’s 5 million. The commenter adds that the problem is that laws are not enforced in Colorado, where “it’s very much every man for himself.”

Image by Nicholas Eckhart

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