Red-light cameras work, study says; judge rules some tickets unconstitutional

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Red light cameras might reduce accidents in KC, but St. Louis courts are giving them hell.
  • Red-light cameras might reduce accidents in KC, but St. Louis courts are giving them hell.
The same week that the Kansas City Police Department and American Traffic Solution declared red-light cameras in KC a success, a circuit judge in St. Louis ruled that some tickets ATS sent to motorists are unconstitutional, The Kansas City Daily Record reports.

In a narrow ruling on Monday, Judge Theresa Counts Burke acquitted driver Nicholas Pateri and state Sen. Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis) of running red lights because the tickets ATS mailed to them did not give the drivers a court date or fully inform them about their options to challenge the citations. The tickets only said they could challenge the fines by saying they were not driving or claiming that their cars had been stolen. Burke ruled that a violation of due process. She did not consider whether the use of cameras was constitutional.

It's the second legal blow to ATS from a St. Louis court this year. In February, Judge Mark Neill ruled that the city's red-light camera tickets violated drivers' due process for the same reasons. But Neil's ruling went much further than Burke's. He ruled that the use of the cameras was a violation of the Constitution because the state Legislature never gave cities permission to issue tickets based on photos. St. Louis is appealing that ruling.

On Tuesday, ATS issued a press release touting the success of its cameras in Kansas City. According to the release:

"Traffic fatalities in Kansas City, Mo., are at zero and dangerous collisions are down significantly at the 17 intersections equipped with red-light cameras from American Traffic Solutions, a new Police Department analysis shows. The report on camera effectiveness found red-light running crashes decreased 65% in the first year with cameras in use and 54% in the second year, providing new evidence in support of the positive change red-light cameras bring to a community."

ATS also claimed that their cameras were altering Kansas Citians' behavior behind the wheel. "Ninety-two percent of drivers receiving a citation did so only once; 99% only received two or less based on license plates. This low rate of repeat offenders suggests a change in driver behavior," the statement said.

Arizona-based ATS might be heading toward lower revenue from Missouri. The Daily Record also reports that Gov. Jay Nixon is considering signing a bill that would require the Missouri Department of Transportation to set a statewide minimum time interval for yellow lights. That could make it longer in some areas that use cameras. When MODoT lengthened yellow lights in Arnold, outside St. Louis, camera tickets slid from 920 in December 2010 to 91 in December 2011.

Having already beaten his red-light camera ticket, Lembke might get a second last laugh (if that can happen) on ATS. He sponsored the minimum yellow-light bill.
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