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After Texas Put a Stop to Red-Light Cameras, Drivers Can Still Slow Down

According to the New York Times, the use of red-light cameras in the United States started in New York City, which tested one in 1992 and then turned on more of them over the years. Other state and city governments gradually adopted them, and by 2018, there were about 400 communities in the United States that operated red-light camera programs, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In June 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law banning all red-light cameras. At the time, around 60 cities in Texas had the cameras in place. A few cities were able to continue using the cameras, and grandfather out of their contract with red-light camera vendors, but generally upon passage of the law most cities immediately turned the cameras off. The red-light cameras were controversial for many reasons but were a consistent revenue stream for some Texas cities. An investigation in Austin a local news outlet found that the City of Austin never complied with the old law that required a traffic engineering study prior to turning cameras on and issuing tickets, despite collecting millions of dollars from the tickets. The old Texas law allowed a city to withhold vehicle registration if the tickets were not paid, however, at least in Austin, this provision of the law was never enforced.

Many legislators argued the red lights, in fact, caused more rear-end accidents to occur due to drivers slamming on the brakes to avoid a ticket. Texas elected officials also accused cities of using the cameras solely to raise revenue. The Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas netted almost $5.8 million from their $75 fines for red-light violations just in 2018.

When Texas legislators voted to outlaw red-light cameras, an elected official in Bedford (the author of the legislation) even argued the cameras were unconstitutional claiming, “We have a right to face our accuser, and you can’t face a camera in court.”

Interesting notion in this day and age of Ring doorbells, dashboard automobile cameras and cell phone cameras. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 971 deaths on Texas roadways caused by drivers running red lights, according to crash data reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly half of the reported deaths were occupants in another vehicle other than the one driven by the red-light runner. Per capita, Texas has the 6th highest rate of red-light running deaths of any state, tied with Kentucky.

But AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, Jake Nelson, says distracted driving is likely a major contributor to red-light accidents as well.

In 2018, Texas had the most deaths in the country for “alcohol impaired driving fatalities” as termed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I recently wrote a blog on the new Texas laws allowing alcohol to go and delivery of beer and wine. Enough said.

In this 2019 Holiday Season, here are some tips to try and avoid red-light accidents, but generally I advise slowing down and driving the posted speed limit.

Stay safe and Happy 2020!

To prevent red light crashes, AAA recommends that drivers:

  • Prepare to Stop: Lift your foot off the accelerator and “cover the brake” when preparing to enter any intersection by positioning your right foot just above the brake pedal, without touching it.
  • Use Good Judgment: Monitor “stale” green lights, those that have been green a long time as you’ve approached the intersection. They are more likely to turn yellow as you arrive at the intersection.
  • Tap the Brake: Tap your brakes a couple of times before fully applying them to slow down. This will catch the attention of drivers who may be inattentive or distracted behind you.
  • Drive Defensively: Before you enter an intersection after the light has turned green for you, take a second after the light changes and look both ways before proceeding.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our municipal law practice can be found here.

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