Tag Archives: red-light cameras

Keep the cameras on duty

My request of the Amarillo City Council is simple and straightforward.

It should agree to expand the deployment of red-light cameras to other troublesome intersections in Amarillo.

Council members are reportedly ready to make a decision. They have targeted a half-dozen intersections where motorists are prone to running red lights. The city already has cameras keeping an eagle eye on lawbreakers; the camera snaps pictures of those who run through the lights and the city sends fine notices to the registered owners of the motor vehicle that has been used in the traffic infraction.

The cameras have worked so well at one intersection — Coulter and Elmhurst — that the city is considering disconnecting the cameras at that location.

The council has received some disturbing news at one level. A lot of the fines the city has assessed have gone unpaid. The count is more than 11,000 of them issued in 2017. Of course, the city cannot let those unpaid citations go unaccounted for.

Council members have learned that the Traffic Department has improved signalization at several intersections with the money collected from the red-light cameras. That, I should add, is how the Legislature stipulated the money must be spent in cities that deploy the cameras.

While some cities have cratered under criticism of this technology, I am delighted to see that Amarillo is staying the course … at least for now. My hope is that it stays the course for the long haul.

Motorists need to be aware that intersections are being equipped with this technology. The more the merrier. The cops cannot be everywhere all at once. The city has taken a proactive approach to dealing with a problem that has caused considerable misery, damage and grief because motorists choose to disobey the law.

My hope is that the City Council proceeds with an expansion of red-light camera traffic enforcement.


Stand your ground, commissioners

Unconstitutional? Umm. Nope!

An Amarillo resident has joined an amen chorus being sung by those who suggest that red-light cameras, which the city has deployed to deter those who run through stop lights, is “unconstitutional.”

Why is that? Because it violates the Sixth Amendment that guarantees that those who are accused of wrongdoing have the right to confront their accuser.

John Faulkner wrote this, in part, to the Amarillo Globe-News in a letter to the editor: A red-light camera photograph is hearsay, and is therefore inadmissible under the Sixth Amendment. It is hearsay because you cannot cross examine the photograph or the camera. The Sixth Amendment gives defendants the right to confront their accuser. 

Sigh. Actually, it is not “hearsay.” This equipment provides physical evidence that someone has run through a red light when he or she is supposed to obey its “instruction” to stop and not proceed until the light turns green.

Furthermore, the city grants accused red-light runners the opportunity to appeal the fine levied against the alleged lawbreaker. Thus, a defendant is granted the right to face his or her accuser.

The constitutionality argument is funny, except that I ain’t laughing.

The Texas Legislature granted cities the authority to install these cameras. It attached some provisions on it, such as requiring cities to devote revenue collected strictly to traffic improvements. The attorney general’s office is full of bright legal minds who can determine the constitutionality of laws the Legislature enacts. City Hall also employs a legal team that ensures its ordinances pass constitutional muster.

So, let’s toss aside this silly argument.

The red-light cameras are doing what they are intended to do. They are deterring some motorists from misbehaving while they travel along our busy streets. Not all of them, for sure.

I remain a strong supporter of this technology. It works.

Red-light camera ban set for more debate


Here we go … again!

The Texas Legislature is going to consider a bill — maybe more than one of them — to ban cities from deploying red-light cameras at dangerous intersections.

Stop me before my head explodes!

Amarillo is one of those cities that has put the cameras to good use at various intersections. City traffic and police officials reported recently that the cameras are doing their job. They are preventing motorists from running through red lights and putting other motorists in jeopardy.

But that ain’t stopping lawmakers from seeking to ban the cameras. The irony of this effort in this legislative body is too rich to ignore.

I’ll start with this fact: Republicans dominate both legislative chambers. The Republican Party traditionally has been the party that seeks to invest more control of government affairs to local authorities. Not so as it regards the cameras. In this instance, the paternalistic state is better equipped than the locals to determine whether there is a need for police to have some electronic help in preventing motorists from ignoring red lights.


Yes, some cities have taken the cameras down after using them for a time. Residents don’t like them? Fine, cities react to their constituents’ concerns.

Lubbock had them. Then they took ’em down.

Amarillo has deployed the cameras since 2008. Sure, there’s been some griping. Has any group put together a petition drive to get them taken down? No. The City Council remains firm in its commitment to using the cameras. I applaud the council for its persistence.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been caught once running a red light. I didn’t do it on purpose. I just forgot about the camera posted at 10th and South Taylor in downtown Amarillo; I drove through the intersection and got caught. The camera took a picture of my car’s license plate and I got a ticket in the mail; I paid the ticket.

So, why does the Legislature want to meddle in cities’ decisions? According to the Dallas Morning News: “Whenever these cameras are put on the ballot box [in cities] … the cameras never win,” said Dallas Republican Sen. Don Huffines, who recently wrote a bill to get rid of the cameras. “They’re not popular, and people are tired of being found guilty by a camera.”

So what if a camera does what a traffic cop can’t do at that moment? I keep thinking back to something that former Amarillo Councilwoman Ellen Green once said in defense of the cameras. She said, essentially, that if you don’t want to pay the fine “don’t run the red lights.”

I have no clue whether the Legislature will make good on its effort to interfere with local prerogative. I do hope, though, that it backs off yet again. Let local traffic and law enforcement authorities determine the best way to keep lawbreaking motorists in line.

Bully for red-light cameras!


I am so busted!

I got home from work this evening and found something on the dining room table I did not expect.

It was a report of traffic violation that I committed near downtown Amarillo.

I drove through an intersection where the city had deployed a red-light camera.

Snap! I was caught.


But here’s the thing. As of today, I have no memory of getting caught. I didn’t blaze through the intersection and see a flash go off behind me as I scooted on down the street.

For that matter, I didn’t even see the “Photo Enforced” sign the city posts 300 feet before every intersection where the lights are set up.

I won’t make an excuse. I have none. I got caught. I’ve written the check and I’ll pay the fine. I won’t contest it.

What’s more, I continue to be a big supporter of the devices. They serve to deter motorists who commit deliberate acts of red-light-running. I will continue to applaud the city — under the leadership of then-Mayor Debra McCartt — for enacting the ordinance that established the enforcement system and for resisting efforts to persuade City Hall to take the cameras down.

The closest thing I can find for an excuse, though, might be that the sign posted prior to the intersection wasn’t visible enough for me. Then again, in all likelihood it is my own damn fault for not being alert enough to notice it.

I’ll take full responsibility.

Moreover, I know this as well. Now that I am fully aware of that particular camera has been set up, I’ll be extra careful when I travel through that intersection in the future.

While I’m at it, I probably ought to acquaint myself with all the red-light-camera locations around the city.

I also will be more alert and work harder to avoid running red lights.

Red-light cameras don’t blink

red light cams

A legal challenge to Texas cities’ deployment of cameras to stop red-light runners has come to an end.

It was tossed out. The case had been filed out of Fort Worth, but it affected all the cities that are using the cameras.

That includes Amarillo.

Now, can we just stop yapping and yammering about these devices?

I continue to support the use of the cameras. It’s not that I cherish the thought of people getting pinched. It’s that I hope knowledge of the cameras at specific intersections eventually will deter motorists from running through the red lights and putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk of getting injured … or killed!

I keep falling back on the comments delivered by my one-time favorite Amarillo City Council member, Ellen Robertson Green. She scolded protesters who were griping about the red-light cameras, telling them flat out that all they to do to avoid getting caught was not obey the law and not run the red lights.

State law is clear: Money raised by the devices must be dedicated to improving traffic in the city. The Legislature tinkered and toyed with the idea of revoking cities’ ability to deploy the cameras. Then it backed off for lack of support. That was a good deal.

Cities should be allowed to determine whether to use the cameras if they perceive a red-light running problem. Amarillo identified such a problem and took steps to deter it.

Let’s allow the system to keep working.

Red-light cameras to stay in operation

Let’s put the effort to ban cities from deploying red-light cameras on ice for another two years.

And then let us hope the Texas Legislature fails again to impose its will on cities who are seeking ways to prevent motorists from running through stop lights and endangering other motorists and pedestrians.


The 2015 Legislature won’t enact a statewide ban on the cameras. It fell short of efforts to take that authority away from cities, where officials — including in Amarillo — have deployed the cameras.

I happen to be glad that Amarillo will be able to maintain the cameras.

What’s more, I am hopeful the next Legislature will decide in the state’s best interest to let cities control their own traffic destiny.

Of all the arguments I keep hearing in opposition to the cameras, the one that angers and amuses me the most is that the cameras “violate the rights” of motorists. What rights? Privacy? The right to “face an accuser”? The right of “due process”?

If we’re going to accept the rights violation argument, then let’s just tell cities to disband their police departments. Let’s take down speed limit signs. While we’re at it, let’s take security cameras out of stores that protect businesses against theft; those cameras, after all, violate our “rights,” too, by watching our every move while we’re shopping.

Amarillo should be hailed for its insistence that the red-light cameras are helping deter motorists from endangering others, not to mention themselves, when they run through stoplights. Other cities haven’t demonstrated that kind of backbone.

So, for now, thanks also belong to the Texas Legislature for leaving cities alone and letting them determine what’s best for the motor vehicle-driving public.

Red-light cameras 'unconstitutional'? Guess again

James Watson has filed a lawsuit against cities in Texas that deploy red-light cameras to catch those who run through intersections against signals that tell them they should stop.

Amarillo is one of them.

He got popped by a red-light camera in Southlake. So, to make his point, he’s going after other cities that use the devices as well.

This lawsuit needs to be thrown out on the plaintiff’s ear.

Watson contends that the cities’ ordinance violates the Texas Constitution and state law by depriving motorists of the “presumption of innocence, the right to trial by an impartial jury, the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right against self-incrimination.”

Oh, my.

What, then, do we do about police officers who catch motorists running through red lights? Do the cops who write the tickets also deny motorists the presumption of innocence and all those other rights that Watson lays out in his suit?

Amarillo City Attorney Marcus Norris said he believes the court will reduce the issues once it reviews the lawsuit. My own hunch is that the court might reduce them to zero, as in tossing the case out.

The lawsuit is as specious as they come.

If he hadn’t run the red light in the first place in Southlake, he wouldn’t be in a jam.

Count me as one who still strongly supports the red-light cameras in Amarillo. I do not want the Legislature to eliminate the law that allows cities to use them. Nor do I want the city to back down on its use because of complaints coming from a vocal minority of residents.

Which is it? Do red-light cameras work?

Those who believe red-light cameras at dangerous intersections do little or nothing to improve traffic safety ought to read the blog attached to this post.


Dallas Morning News blogger/editorial writer Rodger Jones tries to remind those doubters that the cameras actually do some good and that he’s found some research that backs that notion up.

The Texas Legislature appears ready to forbid cities from deploying the cameras. Amarillo has done so and it has used the money generated by the fines collected to improve traffic safety in the city; state law requires cities to dedicate the money to that cause.

State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, says the cameras don’t do any good. Jones disputed Hall’s contention and found some research by an institute affiliated with Texas A&M University that says the opposite of what Hall contends. Jones quotes the findings: “New research suggests that red light cameras help to reduce the number of crashes at intersections where they are installed. The study, although limited to Texas, is one of the most extensive thus far in the nation, and researchers say the findings demonstrate that the automated enforcement method offers an effective means of preventing crash-related deaths and injuries.”

There’s more. Take a look at it.

The point is that legislators have been accusing cities of implementing the cameras as money-makers. Never mind the restrictions placed on how cities can spend the revenue derived from enforcing laws against those who run red lights. The state sets strict limits on how cities can spend the money.

It’s also interesting that some legislators have become overnight civil libertarians, saying that motorists are denied the right to “face their accuser.” Hogwash! Motorists can appeal the fines and in some cases, such as in Amarillo, they’ve been able to persuade authorities to dismiss the charge.

Whatever. Jones’s blog makes the case that lawmakers such as Sen. Hall aren’t telling the whole story as they seek to strip cities of a tool some of them are using to make their streets safer.

'Home rule' on red-light cameras? Apparently not

You live in a Texas city and your elected officials — the folks who represent you and your neighbors — have decided to install cameras at dangerous intersections to deter motorists from running red lights.

Your city has the authority to do such a thing under Texas law. Not as it relates to red-light cameras.

The Texas Senate has sent to the House a bill that would ban cities from deploying the cameras, as Amarillo and dozens of other cities have done.

Well, there goes home rule.

Sen. Bob Hall has declared the cameras to be a failure across the state.


The bill would allow the cameras on toll roads. Therefore, given that there isn’t a toll road within hundreds of miles of the Panhandle, we won’t have the cameras.

I believe it is a mistake for the Legislature to seek to read the minds of mayors, council members, city managers and traffic engineers on this issue.

Are the cameras popular among Amarillo motorists? No. It’s because they catch them doing something they aren’t supposed to do, which is try to sneak past street signals that have turned red or, in some drastic cases, race through the lights from a dead stop.

Then again, I remain unconvinced that most motorists detest the cameras enough to merit their removal. Some of them do and they have protested loudly.

Their voices have been heard — way down yonder in Austin.

Red-light cams under the gun in Senate

Did I dream this or is it for real?

Wasn’t there a time when Republicans sang the virtues of local control and said that local government knew better than state or federal officials how to deal issues of local concern?

Apparently, most members of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee think the state knows best as it regards red-light cameras.


I believe the committee is mistaken.

The panel voted to ban cities and towns from deploying the devices to stop people from running red lights. Amarillo is one of those cities.

The author of the bill is state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton. “The public has expressed great opposition to the growing practice of unmanned, automatic-controlled traffic cameras,” Hall said.

Great opposition? Have there been massive protests? Have motorists marched on city halls across the state to demand removal of these devices?

Come on. Let’s get real.

Amarillo and a handful of other Texas cities have seen a need to crack down on a practice that puts the public in peril. So why not let cities deal with these issues the best way they can?

The full Texas Senate is going to get this bill. It’s full of Republicans who, I once thought, believed local control was the best control.

I think the words of my favorite Amarillo City Council member, Ellen Robertson Green, sums up the issue succinctly. She once told a protester at City Hall the best way to avoid being hassled by the camera is to “just don’t run the red light.”

Is that so difficult?