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Published: Monday, 7/9/2001

Motorist beats red-light camera at appeal hearing

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Raymond Campbell was headed to a job in East Toledo when he saw the Martin Luther King, Jr., drawbridge up over the Maumee River.

To avoid a long delay, he asked the driver of a pickup in the next lane if he could pull his car in front of his truck.

The pickup driver consented, and Mr. Campbell slid in front of the truck, which was stopped for a red light on Summit Street at Cherry Street.

What Mr. Campbell didn't know was that his zig-zag triggered the unmanned red-light cameras at the intersection. His fine: $75.

The photos taken by the red-light camera show Raymond Campbell's car, in

the left-turn lane, pulling around the pickup truck.

“I just went over the line,” said the 52-year-old Toledo construction worker. “I waited for the green light and went across. I didn't run the light.”

James Jones, a Toledo attorney and hearing officer who listens to appeals of the red-light camera tickets, agreed, making Mr. Campbell the first person to win an appeal for such a ticket in the city.

“He made a pretty convincing argument. It was a plausible story and a plausible explanation,” Mr. Jones said. “The guy seemed pretty believable. As the pictures show, his story makes sense to me.”

Police traffic Lt. Louis Borucki said Mr. Jones' decision June 27 was the “right thing to do” and was in the spirit behind the cameras: preventing accidents, not penalizing people.

“It was kind of an unusual situation,” the lieutenant said. “It was an improper lane usage. But these cameras are for red lights, nothing else.”

While only a few people have appealed the tickets in Toledo, many are fighting citations in more than 50 jurisdictions throughout the country that have the cameras.

Drivers are challenging that the cameras invade privacy and claim they are not infallible. They allege the cameras don't clearly show who the driver is. They complain that the vehicle owner, who is not necessarily the driver, is cited.

They argue the cameras don't provide enforcement, as police agencies tout, but are used as moneymakers. They have accused jurisdictions of shortening the amount of time that street lights are yellow and found that sensors in the roads have been moved.

Toledo's first set of red-light cameras started taking pictures for tickets Jan. 22 at Hill Avenue and Byrne Road. Since then, eight more sets have become operational. Construction is set to start this week on cameras at Lewis Avenue and Alexis Road, which has been designated as the most dangerous intersection in the city.

Officers have approved more than 2,000 tickets from Jan. 22 through the end of May. Tickets are mailed to the owners of vehicles caught running red lights by the cameras.

Redflex, the California company hired by the city to install and operate the cameras, sends the images to the police to review. Police approve the violations, and Redflex sends out the tickets.

The company and the city share the ticket fines. Redflex pays refunds to owners who win ticket appeals. Fifteen to 20 people have filed appeals each of the last three months in Toledo, but only a handful have come to the hearings held once a month.

Police have tossed out a couple of tickets, including one in which a license plate appeared too fuzzy. In another circumstance, someone in a funeral procession received a ticket at Hill and Byrne.

“If they put the [funeral] flags on the cars, they will not send a citation,” Lieutenant Borucki said.

He has spoken with some funeral directors asking them to make flags on all the cars in a procession as visible as possible so mourners aren't ticketed. The cameras could flash away as the row of funeral cars drive through red lights to maintain the procession.



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