New Debate About Red Light Cameras in Texas

Dallas council members support red-light cameras as Gov. Abbott fights them

Dallas leaders Tuesday defended red-light cameras as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders promised a new push to get rid of them in the Texas Legislature next year.

Dallas City Council Member Mark Clayton was part of a 9-to-6 city council majority last year that voted to keep the cameras operating for another seven years.

"The city's studies have shown it causes people to slow down when otherwise they would just run the stop light and I think that's good, responsible, government," Clayton said.

Dallas City Council Member Sandy Greyson said she agreed the cameras improve safety at intersections. She has voted several times over the years to support the red-light camera program. She was once the victim of a side impact crash.

"I can tell you, the people who are complaining are not the people who've been run into by somebody running a red light," Clayton said.

Texas Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) said he is pleased to hear a pledge from Abbott to support the measure Huffines has pushed for years.

"It really gives us a lot of momentum – a lot of wind in our sails, to cut the head off the snake," Huffines said.

He disputed city claims of safety benefits from red-light cameras.

"Let's look at the national data, and at best it's mixed on the safety part," Huffines said. "The cameras can increase rear-end accidents."

While some cities have decided to do away with red light cameras, Dallas has reduced the number of intersections to just 30 from around 100 that were equipped about 10 years ago.

"It's not about safety. It's about the money," Huffines said.

Dallas revenue from the cameras was forecast to be around $10 million at the peak. The city of Dallas did not respond to a request Tuesday for the current revenue forecast.

"I think the state should stay out of our business and if the state would provide police officers, then we wouldn't have to rely on red-light cameras," Clayton said. "I think it's good because it gets people to slow down going through intersections instead of running them when they know there's no consequences."

Drivers interviewed by NBC 5 Tuesday had mixed feelings.

Karen Rike said she was recently caught as a yellow light turned red at Buckner Boulevard and Garland Road. She would prefer to be rid of the cameras, but agreed they are a deterrent.

"I have mixed feelings, very mixed feelings about it," she said. "It sort of curbs me, to pay attention that I wouldn't do at a normal intersections."

Other drivers complained the automated cameras send the vehicle owner a $75 ticket regardless of who was driving the car.

"If you run a red light, it should be the driver. And don't have police to pull them over so you can't check a license, so yeah, it's kind of unfair to me," said driver Jerry Wells.

The Texas Legislature meets again in January.

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