Supporters rally behind traffic cameras; Ohio considering ban


COLUMBUS — Red light and speed camera supporters today urged state lawmakers against passing a bill that would ban the cameras in Ohio, and Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Columbus, said he plans to introduce legislation to regulate camera use.

House Bill 69, which would ban traffic cameras except in school zones with an officer present, passed the Ohio House in June in a bipartisan vote, 61-32. It’s been held up in the Senate State Government Oversight and Reform Committee, of which Bacon is a member.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, said the ban was inspired by cameras in Elmwood Place, north of Cincinnati, that a judge deemed “a scam motorists can’t win.”

Bacon said his bill would set statewide standards for traffic cameras where there are none, loosely based on the city of Columbus’ method. Bacon said communities would have to conduct safety studies before installing cameras, inform the public of the cameras’ locations and purpose and provide safety data for intersections with cameras.

Law enforcement officials and the Traffic Safety Coalition, an advocacy group funded in part by traffic camera companies, insist the cameras primary goal is safety and released an online video calling for reforms instead of a ban.

Opponents say the cameras, which issue civil citations to the owner of the offending vehicle, infringe on Ohioans’ right to due process and presume guilt instead of innocence.

Bacon said his bill will require local law enforcement to review citations and allow Ohioans to appeal them. Currently, cities contract with out-of-state camera companies to issue citations by mail.

Dayton officials say cameras have reduced the number of crashes, citywide, 50 percent since 2003. Red light and speed cameras generated $3.7 million in revenue for the city in 2012. Springfield issued 6,638 citations in 2012 and generated $287,784 from paid tickets.

Springfield Police Sgt. Brett Bauer said Tuesday the cameras improve safety and removing them would result in more crashes.

“Hundreds die on Ohio roadways every year,” Bauer said. “There’s technology that allows us to reduce those crashes — technology that’s working. There’s no reason to ban them in our state.”