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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

House panel debates red-light cameras


WASHINGTON - A House committee yesterday debated the merits of traffic cameras at intersections, with arguments on the fatalities caused by red-light runners competing with charges that the cameras intrude on privacy.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R., Texas) wasn't at the hearing, but his interest in the issue is well known on Capitol Hill.

"It's time we re-evaluated the government's role in promoting law enforcement by machines that undermine our privacy and system of laws," Mr. Armey said.

At least 50 cities use the cameras, which snap photos of vehicles driving through red lights. Citations, usually the equivalent of a parking ticket, are mailed to owners tracked down through plate numbers in photos.

In Toledo, red-light cameras have been installed at nine of 10 planned locations. Owners of vehicles photographed in violations are mailed civil notices that carry a $75 fine. Toledo police have approved more than 2,000 tickets since Jan. 22, when the first camera began operating, through the end of May. Tickets can be appealed, but few have been.

The cameras are at the Anthony Wayne Trail and South Avenue, Hill Avenue and Byrne Road, Dorr Street and Secor Road, Airport Highway and Reynolds Road, Laskey Road and Secor, Front and Main streets, Summit and Cherry streets, Heatherdowns Boulevard and Reynolds, and Secor and Monroe Street. Cameras are scheduled to be installed at Lewis Avenue and Alexis Road.

Judith Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the panel about 260,000 crashes are caused by red-light runners every year, with more than 750 of them fatal. She said that at several in|ter|sections where cameras have been used, violations and injuries have dropped.Her arguments were countered by Rep. Bob Barr (R., Ga.), who said the cameras could erode Fourth Amendment protections.

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