Some Red Light Cameras to Stay Even If Texas Ban Is Approved

Critics and supporters differ on money or safety motives for the cameras

A ban on red light cameras in Texas awaits the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott (R) after both chambers of the Texas Legislature approved the new law.

But a grandfather clause in the bill would allow existing cameras to operate through the term of city contracts with vendors. That could be many years into the future.

"If a city has a contract as of May 5 of this year, they can continue to operate their camera system until that contract expires," attorney Scott Stewart said.

The Irving lawyer has sued many cities on behalf of clients who received $75 red light camera tickets.

He said the city of Dallas extended a vendor contract in 2017 through the year 2024.

"Some cities have extended their contracts up to 20 years. So we may have these for a long time," Stewart said.

Bedford is the only North Texas city with red light cameras that actually lost money on the program.

Bedford Police Chief Jeff Gibson said it was not about the money for his city.

"It's never been a revenue issue for us. It's about the ways we can improve safety throughout our community," Gibson said.

Just two Bedford intersections are currently equipped with red light cameras, but 13 were equipped in the past and Gibson said he did research that showed a substantial safety improvement when the cameras were present.

"We have seen a dramatic reduction in intersection accidents. That means less people are getting hurt traveling our roadways. That's a win-win in my opinion. That's why I support and am a proponent of them, because they've proven that they work," Gibson said.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) is the legislator who sponsored the Texas House bill to ban red light cameras. Gibson said he has discussed the issue with Stickland many times.

"This is an area or subject matter that we agree to disagree on," Gibson said. "It's a health and safety issue, number one."

Stewart said studies he has seen showed red light cameras increased rear-end collisions because of drivers stopping rapidly to avoid crossing the intersection.

"What boosts safety if you've got a problem at an intersection, increase the yellow light by a couple of seconds. That will significantly reduce the red light running without having to impose a money making fine on the people," Stewart said.

Since the proposed state ban would not immediately eliminate red light cameras, Stewart said there was plenty of reason to continue the court fight he's been waging to block enforcement of red light citations. He said current programs lack due process for alleged violators.

"The law is just defective, but the courts are bending over backward to protect the cities because it's a lot of money," Stewart said.

The lawsuits he has filed since 2014 include a combined $400 million in revenue for 53 Texas cities, Stewart said.

Gibson said Bedford would actually save money if it could no longer use red light cameras.

The new law would give other cities time to adjust to the loss of revenue.

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