THE Ohio General Assembly has virtually emasculated the intent of red-light cameras at busy intersections. Gov. Bob Taft should reach for his veto pen.
The legislature approved a bill that will impose restrictions on the use of cameras, essentially letting drivers off the hook, and prohibit using those cameras to catch speeders.
It is an abdication of their responsibility to protect Ohioans. Red light and speed cameras work. Listen to the sole Republican voting against this ill-advised and poorly conceived bill. Sen. Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls said that he drives his daughter to school "through a school zone where there is regularly a camera, and I can tell you it works People slow down."
The bill would permit the continued use of speed cameras only in school zones with flashing yellow lights.
So, let's get this straight. By continuing their use in a school zone with such lights the Senate recognizes the cameras could play a vital part in protecting the safety of school kids.
But if speed cameras will produce a safer environment in a school zone, doesn't it hold that speed cameras would also help enforce speed limits everywhere else, thereby saving lives?
But here's the worst part. The bill gives red-light runners an escape mechanism. All they have to do is swear in an affidavit that they were not at the wheel of the car when it ran the light, and there will be no fine. They don't even have to say who was driving their car.
If running a red light can be done without fear of penalty by simply telling a little white lie, the whole point of red-light cameras is defeated. How many police departments have the time or the manpower to verify the truth of such affidavits?
This is just bad legislation, and we worry about its impact here in Toledo, where, we have noted many times, a yellow light means "floor it," and a red means "stop if you feel like it."
Numerous red herrings have been introduced into the debate about using cameras to track red-light runners and speeders. And we agree with Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre, who observed that it wasn't helpful for a former mayor of Cleveland to talk about the cameras in terms of revenue generation and deficit reduction.
Still, the fact that fines from motorists caught by red-light cameras generate revenue is a side issue. The crux remains that cameras can help prevent violations and punish those who break the law.
There also is a disconcerting level of hyperbole from opponents of these cameras. This hardly qualifies as the first step toward totalitarian snooping, or an infringement on our liberties. There's no constitutional issue, and it's disingenuous to suggest otherwise. The fact is: Obeying the law is not optional.
Red-light cameras are a useful and proven tool to cut down on illegal activity and protect the safety of drivers, in the process freeing up police officers to tackle other assignments.
We hope the governor gets the picture and vetoes this misguided legislation.
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