Traffic Enforcement Cameras Pursued
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Traffic enforcement cameras to identify and ticket red light runners are being proposed in a couple of cities in Western Massachusetts and by state lawmakers in Connecticut. Advocates say these automated systems save lives and raise revenue. Critics raise privacy concerns .WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
Springfield city councilor James Ferrera has sponsored a home rule bill requesting state permission for the city to install cameras and sensors at certain intersections. The cameras would snap pictures of the license plates of any vehicles that run red lights and tickets would be mailed to the registered owner
Ferrera estimates the city could collect 3 to five million dollars a year by using the traffic enforcement cameras. It is revenue the city could dearly use as it looks to close a projected budget gap of just over five million dollars. But, Ferrera also points to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that red light cameras saved 159 lives over a four year period in 14 US cities. The study compared red light running fatalities in cities that have the cameras to those that do not..
The Pittsfield City Council, in January, approved a home rule bill to install a traffic enforcement camera system.
There is no state law that currently governs the use of red light cameras, according to a spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. A bill that would give communities the local option to install the cameras and collect fines up to 124 dollars has been sitting in the legislature's joint transportation committee since January. Similar legislation, filed by the Patrick administration last year did not pass, according to the public safety spokesman.
State Representative Sean Curran of Springfield says he doesn't like the idea of red light cameras..
In Connecticut, a bill to authorize red light cameras in the state's 13 largest cities has been approved in two committees.
William Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the ACLU says the red light cameras raise serious questions about the use of technology..
Newman says the ACLU in Massachusetts has also raised alarms about the use of license plate reading systems. The Springfield Parking Authority uses cameras mounted on vehicles to take pictures of license plates to go after parking ticket scofflaws. Springfield City Councilor TimothyRooke says a home rule petition has been filed seeking state permission to use the license plate readers to collect overdue automobile excise taxes
Springfield is owed nearly 7 million dollars in unpaid excise taxes according to the city's treasurer-collector