Red light cameras set to return to action

The red light cameras – on hold since a Nov. 6 court ruling – could return in 10 days if the city council approves a legal change today.

The council’s public safety committee approved the change Monday and sent it to the full council.

The 29 cameras at 17 intersections have continued to run and about 3,500 possible violations are on hold since Nov. 1, officials said.

Any fines for them would have to be assessed under the old city law, however, and the appeals court ruling from the St. Louis area voided a similar law there.

The issue is being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and tickets could be assessed on those cases if the current city law is upheld, city lawyers said.

But the new law, expected to be approved today, would clearly allow tickets to be issued in new cases.

The new law assigns liability for the tickets to the vehicle’s driver, instead of its owner under the current law.

That is actually the way city law handled it until another court ruling prompted it to change to owners in 2011.

They changed to owners because before that tickets were not going to people who rented cars or drove company vehicles. The proposed new law would still allow tickets for those people, said City Prosecutor Lowell Gard.

The camera takes a picture of the license plate and the citation goes to the registered owner, but the owner can tell if someone else was driving and a new ticket is issued to the driver.

Another issue raised by the Nov. 6 appeals court ruling does not apply to Kansas City law, lawyers said. The appeal court panel found another city law invalid partly because it said a moving violation – running a red light – did not get points assessed against it on licenses.

But the Missouri Department of Revenue ruled in 2009 that it would not assess points in the camera cases and that issue is not addressed in the Kansas City ordinance.

Members of the council public safety committee said statistics prove dramatically that the red light cameras work.

From 2008, before cameras, to the end of 2012, there was a more than 29 percent decline in accidents at the camera intersections.

People are learning from the tickets as well, according to the numbers. From 2010 to 2012 there was more than a 23 percent decline in tickets.

Jason Norton, a vice president at American Traffic Solutions, which operates the cameras, said that 86 percent of those who got red light tickets got only one. Only 3 percent got more than two, he said.

“If people get the citation, pay it, they learn their lesson,” Norton said.

Councilman John Sharp, chair of the public safety committee, said the program works as is and he does not believe there is any need to assess points against licenses.

“I just wish any of our other punishment for any kind of crime was so effective,” he said.

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