Louisiana Transportation Research Center (LTRC) along with Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is seeking public opinion on the use of cameras to enforce red lights. They are requesting the public participate in an online survey.
According to DOTD spokesperson Susan Stafford, results of the survey will be used to gauge public perception and perceived effectiveness of automatic enforcement cameras. The results will also allow LTRC to contrast public opinion and perception of automatic enforcement cameras in different communities.
The survey is estimated to take three minutes to complete. To take the survey, visit www.dotd.la.gov/pressreleases/Release.aspx?key=1859 and follow the survey link.
LTRC is operated through Louisiana State University and was created by state legislature in 1986. Most of its funding is authorized by the Federal Highway Administration. LTRC's purpose is to improve the state's transportation system using the resources of state government and universities to identify, develop, and implement new technology.
There are currently no traffic enforcement cameras in Webster Parish, nor have any definitive plans been made according to Webster Parish Police Jury Road Superintendent Teddy Holloway. Stafford said there are no state traffic enforcement cameras in the parish either.
Controversy has surrounded use of the lights in other parts of the state, mostly related to program administration rather than the cameras themselves.
A federal investigation into corruption in Jefferson Parish government brought to light potentially inappropriate payments made to a lobbyist for the traffic camera contractor, prompting suspension of the parish's program.
Proponents see the cameras as a means of improving public safety. They cite studies showing reduced accidents and infractions after camera installation. As a side benefit, they point out how cameras increase revenue for the parish or municipality using them.
Opponents argue that the primary motivator of local government use of the cameras is the revenue stream. They cite studies that, despite reduced infractions, show no significant reduction in accidents at camera-enforced intersections.
The cameras are typically managed out of state and exist outside of the law enforcement system. Tickets generated by the cameras are often processed as administrative penalties, rather than the legal citations given out by law enforcement. Appeal processes vary depending on local laws.
Similar issues have been raised for and against speed enforcement cameras, with the addition of concerns that the radar systems on the camera may not be maintained properly and cause unwarranted tickets to be given.
Two bills were introduced in the 2011 legislative session dealing with traffic enforcement cameras.
Rep. Jeff Arnold introduced HB347, which would prevent local governments from enforcing traffic laws with red light cameras unless approved in a parish election. The bill is waiting for consideration by House Municipal and Parochial Affairs Committee.
Sen. Daniel Martiny introduced SB75, which makes speed enforcement cameras illegal in the state. The bill was considered and deferred by Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee on May 19. The terms of deferment were not specified during the committee meeting.
Red light cameras are specifically allowed by law in 21 states and are banned in nine. Speed enforcement cameras are specifically allowed by law in nine states and are banned in 12. The bill was considered by Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee on May 19, and was deferred to an undetermined fate.
Arkansas and Mississippi ban use of either type of camera. Texas bans speed enforcement cameras outright, but allows use of red light cameras in school zones and at railroad crossings when a law enforcement officer issues tickets at the time of infraction.
(Editor's Note: Detailed information about various state traffic enforcement laws may be found at www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/auto_enforce.html.
A New Orleans Times-Picayune article about the Jefferson Parish scandal may be found at www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/01/red-light_cameras_in_jefferson.html, and an article about the overall federal investigation into the parish may be found at www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2011/10/fbi_records_shed_light_on_jeff.html.)