SENATE HEARINGS

Ohio bill would ban red-light cameras

Opponents want devices removed

10/8/2013
BY JIM PROVANCE BLADE
COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIIEF
A Red-Light camera on the southbound corner of Talmadge Road at Sylvania Avenue in Toledo.
A Red-Light camera on the southbound corner of Talmadge Road at Sylvania Avenue in Toledo.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate on Tuesday began hearings on a bill that would outlaw red-light enforcement cameras and all but eliminate the use of speed cameras.

The measure, which Toledo officials have opposed, moved rapidly through the House in the spring before lawmakers recessed for the summer.

Several members of the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee asked whether the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Ron Maag (R., Lebanon) and Dale Mallory (D., Cincinnati), would consider reform of traffic-camera programs in cities such as Toledo rather than pull the plug on them altogether.

“This situation has already spun out of control…,” Mr. Mallory said. “We need to stop it in its tracks.”

The latest backlash was fueled by Elmwood Place, a small village near Cincinnati where the camera program was shut down by a judge who declared it a “scam that the motorists can’t win.”

The cameras are now stored at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Mr. Mallory said.

Under House Bill 69, only speed cameras in 20-mph school zones would survive, and even then only if they are accompanied by a police officer.

Fifteen Ohio municipalities, including Toledo, operate traffic-enforcement cameras that result in fines but, unlike criminal violations witnessed by a police officer, do not carry points against a driver’s license or report to insurance companies.

Toledo took in nearly $3 million in 2012 and has predicted $4.2 million this year.

Citations issued in Toledo cost violators $120, of which $90.25 belongs to the city.

Earlier this year, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell went to Columbus to speak in favor of the programs.

“I thought they were saving lives when I was a firefighter before I was a chief and didn't care about money or budgets,” he said at the time. “Ask any firefighter or police officer who has been at the site of an accident at a red light intersection involving kids and they will be able to tell you what that scene looked like.”

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing in which only the bill’s sponsors testified, the pro-camera Traffic Safety Coalition made up of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, Ohio Municipal League, and others argued that the cameras work in reducing serious right-angle crashes at intersections.

“The people who are killed at the hands of reckless drivers every year are more than just statistics,” said Paul Oberhauser of Somerset, Ohio, the coalition’s national co-chairman.

“They’re the children, siblings and parents of people whose loved ones are lost due to people who break the law,” he said. “We lost our daughter to one careless driver who ran a red light. If there’s a tool available to aide our law enforcement in saving lives, we should absolutely use it to prevent further loss of life.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.