Texas is poised to ban red light cameras after the state Senate approved House Bill 1631 by a 23 to 8 vote on Friday, the Dallas News reported. Republican Governor Greg Abbott just needs to sign the bill, which is almost a certainty, given the fact that he campaigned on the issue last year.
Red light cameras automatically flag when a driver has blown through a traffic stop, and the driver is mailed a citation. In Texas, the ticket costs offenders $75, but Governor Abbott campaigned against red light cameras during his re-election bid in November 2018, citing studies that the cameras “may increase accidents where deployed” and insisting that there were “constitutional issues” with their use.
There are 24 states that currently have red light cameras operating within their borders, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. But 10 states already ban the use of red light cameras. Texas will be the eleventh.
There was already pressure mounting in some Texas cities to get rid of the red light cameras, with Arlington banning the tricky robo-cops in 2015 after a popular vote. Some anti-red-light camera activists even proposed just not paying the tickets since they were merely civil rather than criminal infractions. The new Texas bill would ban the cameras statewide, even if an individual city still wanted to keep them.
The vote in the Texas Senate was largely along party lines. Almost all of the state senators who voted against the bill were Democrats, except for Republican state Senator Kel Seliger from Amarillo. The Democrats also represent the state’s largest urban areas like Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso, whereas the Republicans who voted for the bill largely represent the state’s more rural districts.
The cameras are currently in operation in both larger cities like Dallas (population 1.3 million) as well as smaller municipalities like Garland (population 230,000) and Plano (population 286,000).
Some cities across the U.S. have turned their red light cameras into a very profitable enterprise, and local governments have even been caught red-handed trying to juice the system. Fremont, California, shaved some time off its yellow lights back in 2016 causing a 445 percent spike in the number of red light camera tickets that were issued. The city quietly lengthened the yellow light time after getting caught.
The city of Dallas reportedly brought in $5.8 million with its red light cameras in 2018. But it’s going to have to make up the revenue somewhere else.