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Should speed and red light cameras be eliminated?

By Kelli Wynn - Staff Writer

Area city officials, who have collected millions in fines from speed violation monitors and red light cameras in past years, said proposed state legislation to eliminate the devices willtake away tools that have allowed them to reduce traffic accidents in some cases by 50 percent.

The controversial devices are the subject of state legislation that would prohibit them throughout the state as the Dayton Daily News has previously reported. Supporters of the legislation say the devices violate the concept of innocent until proven guilty and are used to generate revenue for local governments.

The Ohio House has passed House Bill 69, which would prohibit the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices that detect traffic signal light and speed limit violations. However, there is an exception that allows for the use of such devices within a school zone, as long as an officer is present. The bill is awaiting action by the Senate.

How did local legislators vote on the traffic camera ban?

Earlier this year, a Hamilton County Judge blocked cameras in Elmwood Place, north of Cincinnati, for being a “scam that motorists can’t win.” Before the creation of the ban, the Hamilton County village collected $1.5 million in six months.

But even while the legislation to ban them is pending in the Ohio Senate, local law enforcement and goverments continue to depend on the two different kinds of devices to cut down on speeding and accidents.

Red light cameras monitor vehicles that run red lights and generates citations with fines attached. Speed violation monitors, which include fixed and mobile speed enforcement units, detect vehicles traveling over the designated speed limit. The monitors also generate citations with fines attached.

If the legislation passes, “We would have to remove all our cameras and we feel that we would see an increase in crashes at those intersections that have been previously enforced,” said Dayton Police Office Jason Ward, about areas where there are fixed and mobile red light and speed monitors.

Without these enforcement tools, Ward said there is a possibility that there will be more “t-bone style crashes,” that frequently result in more serious injuries. “Hopefully, not an increase in fatalities,” he said.

Other Ohio communities that have red light or speed enforcement cameras include Trotwood, West Carrollton, Springfield, Hamilton, New Miami, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, and Cleveland.

“Since 2003 when the program was incepted into the City of Dayton, we have seen almost a 50 percent decrease city-wide in crashes from 2003 to 2012,” said Ward, who is also the department’s Redflex coordinator. “We initially saw a 23 percent decrease in red light crashes at our photo enforced intersections.”

Mobile Speed Vehicles

Dayton has one Mobile Speed Vehicle which was given to the department via the city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, Ward said.

Dayton has collected $17,835 from tickets issued between October of 2012 to September of 2013, from the mobile enforcement vehicles, according to Tom Biedenharn, city spokesman. Tickets were issued for 207 violations during that time period.

“We start enforcement at 12 miles over (the speed limit) for surface streets and 15 miles over (the speed limit) for highways,” Ward said. Dayton’s vehicle is placed in locations where police have received citizen complaints, he said.

“This vehicle is always in plain sight, clearly marked on three sides (with the Dayton Police badge),” Ward said. “Our mobile speed vehicle can be put out in any location that we deem necessary to enforce speed limits where a fixed camera is not appropriate.”

Trotwood has two speed enforcement vehicles and their radars are triggered by cars traveling anywhere from 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit. One can often be found on US 35.

Some of these vehicles have the ability to catch speeds of vehicles traveling in opposite directions. “But, we only take pictures of the rears of the vehicles, but we can set this particular vehicle in the median and it can get vehicles going both ways,” Ward said.

The surveillance equipment can take still photos and shoot 12 seconds of video of the violation, according to Ward.

The data collected by these mobile speed units is examined to determine if a violation occurred before a ticket is issued to the violator.

Trotwood Police Capt. John Porter said the city’s red light and speed violation enforcement program is designed to generate about $300,000 a year. Last year,Trotwood was able to collect more than $327,000 in revenue from its fixed red light and speed devices and its mobile speed units. So far this year, the city has collected more than $159,000 in revenue from its fixed red light and speed devices and its mobile speed units. The city does not divide revenue based on the type of camera.

Dayton has a dispute process in place for those who receive tickets on their vehicles when they are not driving at the time the violation occurred.

The city of Trotwood receives $35 of the $85 ticket and Redflex receives $50.

Since 2005, the city of Trotwood has had over $5.5 million in outstanding fines - as a result of the Redflex program, including both red light cameras and mobile speed vehicles that are unpaid, Porter said. If that amount were to be collected, a portion of the money would go to the city and the other portion would go to Redflex.

“This by no means is a lucrative, money-making project,” Porter said.

However, fines sent to collection agencies can wind up on a person’s credit report.

Porter also said those who have been fined will still have to pay their tickets despite the outcome of the proposed legislation.

Trotwood’s revenue has been down significantly this year because of media exposure about House Bill 69, which Porter said deals with all photo enforcement systems and does not allow for citizens to ignore their fines.

“Even if (the bill) does go away, people are still going to have to pay off their citations,” Porter said.

“This program is about safety, slowing people down and making them aware and changing driver behavior.”

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