Legislature

Red light camera ban gets green light, so far

By Vic Vela
Posted

Red light cameras could be a thing of the past, under a bill that is making its way through the Legislature.

The bipartisan legislation would prohibit the use of red light cameras and photo radars anywhere in the state. Communities sometimes use the technology to slow down speeding drivers and to increase revenues.

The bill received initial approval in the Senate on April 17 and is expected to pass the chamber before the legislation moves to the House.

Rep. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, a bill sponsor, contends that the use of red light cameras and other driving detection technology is a "cash grab" on the part of communities, and that their presence can have an adverse impact on public safety.

Renfroe and other supporters argue that drivers sometimes slam on the breaks after noticing the equipment, which can lead to the very accidents communities are trying to prevent.

And bill supporters also said that a single picture of a vehicle crossing an intersection often doesn't take into consideration other road factors that impact the way people drive.

"A camera can take a picture, but it doesn't tell the story," Renfroe said.

Supporters pointed to a number of areas of concern over the technology. Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, a bill co-sponsor, said there isn't any evidence that indicates that the devices have "a tangible effect on public safety."

Sen. David Balmer, R-Centennial, said the flashes that emit from the cameras can trigger epileptic seizures. Balmer also said the devices interfere with a driver's right to confront his or her accuser in court.

But the bill had its share of opponents who said that communities would suffer if this bill became law.

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, said the use of red light cameras at a problematic intersection in his home town has saved lives. He also said the use of the technology is especially vital in areas where "human management is impossible."

"This is about safety," Ulibarri said. "This is about life and death. This is about real folks who may be injured."

Amendments by Ulibarri and other bill opponents to either weaken or postpone the legislation failed to garner enough support to pass.

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said that red light camera technology that has been placed at busy city intersections has impacted public safety in a positive way.

Steadman also took issue with supporters of the bill who may not live in areas that have to deal with high-traffic concerns.

"You represent districts and towns that don't even have stop lights," Steadman quipped.

Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, also opposed the legislation. She said that communities in her district want to see more driver detection technology, not less.

"I have in my district, communities that have requested me to vote no on this, who are begging me to vote no on this because of the safety factor," Newell said.