What’s the deal with red-light cameras?

The sole purpose of the red-light camera is to catch you doing something bad and then humiliate you by mailing you a photograph of yourself doing said bad thing. Okay, so that’s not true. But if you’ve ever been cited for running a red light where a camera’s installed, it can feel like that. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, red-light cameras are installed to curb crashes at busy intersections. We all know that running red lights can be very dangerous, but people are split on whether red-light cameras are the best way to make intersections safer.

Gov. Greg Abbott has weighed in on the debate saying that data shows the cameras could lead to more rear-end crashes from drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid a fine. There’s a new push at the State Capitol this session to get rid of the cameras as well. Some have long argued it’s a constitutional issue. Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland has been a strong voice against red-light cameras and has filed bills to ban them in the past. While his legislation has failed to make it through in past sessions, he’s renewing his push again with a new bill this session.

DETAILS l House Bill 1631

This is what he told me when I interviewed him in 2015 about why he wants to get rid of red-light cameras:

“We believe it’s a constitutional issue. We believe you have the right to face your accuser. We believe in the fourth amendment and the right to privacy,” said Stickland.

Stickland told me he believes the cameras are also a way to generate a profit off the backs of citizens.

RELATED l Lawmaker Wants to Rid State of Red Light Cameras

Revenue collected from tickets is split between the state, cities and companies that maintain and operate the cameras. Some of the money generated by the state is then earmarked for regional trauma centers.

But some Texas cities say red-light cameras are working to keep intersections safer.  

Leon Valley has been vocal in fighting against any efforts to get rid of the cameras. According to the city’s website, “Red-light running is a deadly epidemic. Red-light safety camera programs have proven to reduce the number of red-light running collisions and their associated injuries and fatalities.”

RELATED l Governor Wants to Ban Red Light Cameras in Texas

Whether a bill to ban the cameras will actually make it to the governor’s desk this session is still unknown. The Texas Supreme Court is also expected to weigh in on the legality of the cameras this summer.