Montana bans use of red-light cameras
05/10/2009 - 10:32:09 pm
The new law in Montana ends the city of Bozeman’s plans to add the enforcement tool at some city intersections. Billings adopted a similar ordinance this spring.
Previously HB531, the new rule outlaws using cameras or other technology to enforce traffic violations not witnessed by police officers. As a result, Bozeman and Billings will not be able to follow through with their plans to post cameras to nab red-light runners.
Local officials said they would have preferred that the state not get involved with their local ordinances.
While the bill was successful in doing away with red light cameras, there is concern among some that the legislation didn’t go far enough to specifically rule out the use of photo radar on highways.
Bob Morrow of Helena, MT, is an active member of the National Motorists Association. Morrow said he would like to see lawmakers go the extra step to specifically prohibit the use of photo radar during the next regular session.
“The whole bill was directed at red light cameras. I don’t know if it was ever the intention to ban photo radar. ... If this bill doesn’t cover it, they need another piece of legislation that does,” Morrow told Land Line.
The bill’s passage was a blow to red light camera advocates who say the cameras are about safety and using technology in a helpful way. Others say the devices free up police to address bigger issues.
Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are intended solely to keep people safe.
Others question the effectiveness of such intersection cameras, arguing they have the potential to distract drivers and cause more fender-bender accidents. In fact, multiple studies have found that crashes actually increased in cities with red-light cameras.
In Mississippi, similar concerns spurred lawmakers to prohibit the use of red-light cameras in the state. The new law also forces communities already using the devices to remove them by Oct. 1.
The cameras snap pictures of red-light runners’ vehicles. A $75 ticket is mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.
By Keith Goble, state legislative editor Land Line Magazine