by Morgan Montalvo
With Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calling on state lawmakers to end the use of red-light cameras in 2019, it’s no surprise communities that employ the automated traffic control devices are pushing back, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Two San Antonio-area municipalities. Balcones Heights and Leon Valley, employ red-light cameras, and both consider them effective tools to curb traffic violations.
Abbott says red-light cameras force people to “speed brake” as they approach intersections, causing an increase in rear-end or side-impact collisions.
Balcones Heights spokesman Lorenzo Nastasi disputes Abbott’s claims.
“The twelve locations we have in the city have seen a 40-percent reduction in intersection accidents since the program began,” Nastasi says. “That’s pretty significant.”
The Texas legislature first began examining red0light cameras as an option for smaller communities in the 1990s, and it took years to approve their use, says Sherri Greenberg, a former state legislator who now teaches graduate-level public policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin.
Greenberg says arguments against red-light camera use range from the amount of revenue small communities generate through their use and the legitimacy of traffic studies in areas where they are employed, to Constitutional issues over privacy.
Nastasi maintains that the cameras are more reliable or “objective” than patrol officers beause of their design.
Balcones Heights, he says, offers motorists accused of a red-light violation a pre-trial opportunity to see the evidence.
“Anyone who receives a traffic safety violation is able to come in an sit down with the officer and look at the video,” Nastasi says.
Balcones Heights, Nastasi says, has a more than 99 percent conviction rate in red-light camera cases. Nastasi also defends his city’s use of red-light cameras because of the amount of traffic that passes through Balcones Height each day.
He says on an average day, occupants in vehicles transiting through the North Side municipality number up to eight times the city’s population of about 3,000 residents, making policing difficult for the city’s police department of slightly more than 30 officers.
Nastasi says politicians almost every year bring up elimination of red-light cameras as a campaign issue, yet the systems remain in operation in many, usually small, Texas cities and towns.