Gov. Haslam plans to sign traffic camera bill

Gov. Haslam plans to sign traffic camera bill
NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says he will sign into law a traffic camera bill that aims to eliminate their use as speed traps and reduce private vendors’ influence over where they are located.
The governor can draw on personal experience — as both an enforcer and as a violator — in deciding to enact the legislation that passed both chambers overwhelmingly.
In his previous job as Knoxville mayor, Haslam oversaw the installation of red light cameras at city intersections.
And while running for governor last year, he was ticketed when he was caught speeding by a camera in Bluff City that critics deride a speed trap.
The bill decrees that speed cameras can’t be located within a mile of a 10 mph drop in the speed limit, and that tickets can only be issued for vehicles entering an intersection after the light has already turned red.
The measure also re-quires local governments to conduct independent traffic engineering studies — without the influence or money of private vendors — to determine the location of future cameras.
The measure did not address what percentage of fees can be collected by vendors and it does not affect current cameras for the duration of their contracts. It also doesn’t apply to mobile traffic cameras operated from vans.
The bill does include a ban on issuing tickets for failure to stop before turning right on red.
Dean said it will remain a violation to fail to come to a complete halt, but that the cameras can’t recognize legitimate reasons for being in the intersection after the light turns red.
Motorist Catherine Sexton, 54, of Westmoreland, said she has been ticketed a couple of times by red light cameras in nearby Gallatin in Middle Tennessee.
Sexton said there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get through the intersections before the light turns red and the camera snaps a picture.
“Before you get to the intersection, you have to be looking for the camera,” she said. “It makes me nervous.”
Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough rejoiced in at least setting a timetable for putting an end to some of the more notorious speeding cameras.
Don Weaver, city manager for the town in northeastern Tennessee, disputes claims that Bluff City’s traffic camera is purely for revenue generation.
“I disagree wholeheartedly. We put it in for safety,” he said. “We’ve caught some running over 100 mph through there. … I assume (lawmakers) don’t care if people speed.”
Weaver said the about mile-long stretch with a 45 mph speed limit is meant to protect drivers coming out of busy restaurants and nearby stores. He said he would prefer for the lower speed limit to be extended well beyond the current zone.
Red light and speeding cameras also guard the only traffic light in the town of Huntingdon in rural West Tennessee.
The intersection is less than mile from the city limits, so officials there can’t independently adjust the speed limits sooner, Parker said.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based American Traffic Solutions Inc. operates both the Bluff City and Huntingdon traffic cameras. Complaints about traffic cameras mostly come from people who have been caught breaking the law, Territo said.
Territo acknowledged that drivers get upset when they get tickets in the mail, but that it wouldn’t have happened if they had been following traffic laws.
Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report from Gallatin. Erik Schelzig can be reached at http://twitter.com/SchelzigAP
wcp 5/31/11

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