Red-Light Camera Cities At Odds with Gov. Abbott

by Morgan Montalvo 

WOAI News     

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.    


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