Texas Supreme Court Considers Banning 'Red Light Cameras'

The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday in a case that claims that those 'red light cameras,' which are operated locally in Leon Valley and Balcones Heights, are illegal and should be outlawed, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Attorney Russell Bowman made the case against the cameras, which take photographs of the license plates of drivers who don't fully stop before making right turns or who try to 'beat the light,' and send tickets and fines to the owner of the vehicle.

"Because the red light cameras do not provide a right to a jury trial," Bowman told News Radio 1200 WOAI.  "When you go to JP court, the one guarantee you have is the right to a jury trial."

Tickets written by police officers are generally handled in Justice of the Peace court.

The case will be decided about the time the Legislature is convening for the 2019 session, and State Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) says he will again file a bill outlawing the cameras.

"Are you tired of getting ripped off by red light cameras," Huffines said in a video.  "I sure am, and I am going to rip them out of the ground in the next session."

Gov. Abbott has already pledged to make elimination of red light cameras a key priority in the coming session, citing a study done by economist Justin Gallagher at Case Western Reserve University.

"Red light cameras do not reduce injuries in any way," Gallagher said.  "In fact, injuries go up when red light cameras are in place."

Gallagher cited incidents where motorists have driven halfway into an intersection, see the camera or the mandatory sign warning of the presence of a camera, and slam on their brakes, causing the vehicle behind them to rear end them.

Supporters of red light cameras say they are simply a technological extension of police equipment, no different than RADAR or a police radio.

Cities like Balcones Heights and Leon Valley point out that red light running is common by people who drive down busy Fredericksburg Road or Bandera Road, and the small communities can't afford to have a police officer stationed at every red light.

But departments cite large numbers of motorists running red lights on the main roads, and say the incidence of red light running drops dramatically when the cameras are installed.