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Archive for the category “Musings: Traffic Law”

Iowa Supreme Court Says DOT Doesn’t Have The Authority To Regulate Traffic Cameras

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of cities and their use of traffic cameras.

Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine argued the DOT does not have the right to make rules that forced them to move or take down traffic cameras. The Supreme Court ruling agrees –saying while the Iowa Legislature gives the agency specific authority in other areas — traffic cameras are not included.

The DOT had argued the camera rules fall under their authority to remove “obstructions” from highway right-of-ways. But the Supreme Court says that’s a stretch because the cameras are on poles over the highway and the DOT was okay with cameras just being shut down and not removed.

The ruling says under the DOT argument, if the cities decided to station numerous patrol cars on Interstates 380 and 235 to catch and ticket speeders, the DOT could not issue a rule banning the practice on the grounds that it has “jurisdiction and control” over the highways.

The Supreme Court says when the legislature has given an agency general rulemaking authority but has also granted specific authority in particular areas, the agency cannot then extend the specific grants beyond their scope. It cited an earlier case where the court ruled that the DNR had the authority to quarantine a deer with CWD, but did not have the authority to quarantine the land where the infected deer was discovered, because the DNR was not given that specific authority.

The ruling says the ban on the use of drones for traffic enforcement passed in 2014 shows the legislature has the ability to enact rules for new types of traffic enforcement, but says lawmakers have not taken the step for traffic cameras.

Here’s the full ruling: Traffic-Camera-ruling-PDF

Originally published on April 27, 2018 by KGLO and can be found here.

Are Traffic Cameras Rigged Against Drivers?

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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There are some studies that have found that traffic cameras slow down traffic, increase wait times, and fuel an increase in rear-end accidents.

And critics say that they are more about trying to make money for the state than they are about trying to keep the roads safer. The intentions behind them might have been good, but in the end the cameras might be causing more harm than any good.

While some studies have found negative results from the traffic cameras, there are others, such as one that was funded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found different results; that they allegedly reduced collisions.

However, it appears that a growing number of people are starting to question the efficiency of the cameras; considering the resources that go into maintaining and replacing them etc. As well as the billions of dollars in funding that they are helping to collect for the state.

Are they causing more harm than good?

One recent study that looked at 148 intersections that were located in at least 28 different cities in the US, found that the total number of crashes had increased roughly 10.14 percent compared to the data they had collected prior to installing traffic cameras.

There have been several attempts to ban red-light traffic cameras and to have them removed from various jurisdictions, some public officials have even including it as a campaign promise to voters. But many efforts thus far have failed. However, they did have some success recently in Arizona a few months ago, after House legislators there decided to pass a bill to get rid of traffic cameras; sending it to the Senate for further approval.

The Senate in Texas has also recently voted to ban the use of traffic cameras statewide. One Senator from Texas, Sen. Don Huffines, previously declared that he wants the state to reimburse the victims of these traffic cameras and he wants the entire program turned off; he’s made multiple attempts to try and see that happen.

Regardless of the growing number of critics who are trying to make efforts to have the cameras removed, there are still a great deal of law enforcement personnel and other public officials etc, who maintain that there is a need to continue using them across the country.

One critic of the cameras, an engineer from Sweden, Mats Jarlstrom, who now resides in Oregon, decided to conduct his own investigation on the cameras and he was slapped with a fine from the state for having engaged in unlicensed practice of engineering because he isn’t a licensed professional in the eyes of the state of Oregon.

Jarlstrom launched his mission several years ago and he’s been looking to prove that the cameras are setting drivers up for tickets; they’re rigged against the laws of nature, he says.

He’s even taken his findings to the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying so that those who have the ability to, might possibly work to make the appropriate changes if there is such a problem with the cameras. That didn’t happen however, instead they decided to accuse him of having practiced engineering without the appropriate permission from the state.

He’s already been fined hundreds of dollars by the state and been under investigation, simply for trying to point out what he believes is a problem that they should be concerned with correcting.

It all started several years ago after Jarlstrom’s wife allegedly received her own ticket and he became interested with the math behind the traffic lights, and he says that because of a flaw with its timing that it’s rigged against drivers.

He fought back, and won.

Jarlstrom filed a federal lawsuit in defense, he argued that their crackdown equated to a violation of his 1st Amendment Constitutionally-protected right to free speech. After all, shouldn’t free speech apply to discussions about math? It took several years but recently the attorney general in Oregon allegedly admitted that they had violated his free speech rights with their actions. Jarlstrom has partnered with the Institute for Justice and he isn’t over yet because he says that he wants the law declared unconstitutional; he doesn’t want to see others fall victim just like he did for what should be considered protected speech.

Sources:
http://time.com/3643077/red-light-cams-rear-end-collisions-chicago/
https://globalnews.ca/news/2853066/turning-off-red-light-cameras-can-be-deadly-study/
http://abcnews.go.com/US/red-light-camera-backlash-cameras-causing-accidents/story?id=13925887
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-red-light-cameras-crashes-20170106-story.html
https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2017/02/21/arizona-lawmaker-travis-grantham-wants-get-rid-photo-radar/98199096/
http://tucson.com/news/local/no-more-tickets-from-tucson-s-red-light-cameras-radar/article_c4b350cf-2e9a-59ef-b644-ce83fca30896.html
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/5gkgxn/the-shady-municipal-business-of-traffic-cams
http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-debates-red-light-cameras-tools-that-save-lives-or-police-state-tactics-9114403
http://kxan.com/2017/09/11/abilene-mayor-we-did-red-light-cameras-the-right-way/
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/texas/articles/2017-03-29/texas-senate-votes-to-ban-red-light-cameras-statewide
http://koin.com/2016/08/10/are-red-light-cameras-rigged-against-laws-of-nature/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/12/08/criticizing-red-light-cameras-is-not-a-punishable-offense-oregon-concedes/?utm_term=.49814732d3b0
https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2017/04/28/do-you-need-a-license-in-engineering-to-criticize-red-light-cameras-oregon-says-yes/

This article was published in Steemit and can be found here.

 

Ohio town must pay back millions of fines collected from speed cameras, court rules

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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A small Ohio town that lived by the red light camera could soon die by it, after a federal court ruled the speed trap has to pay back more than $3 million in automated speeding tickets.

The case of New Miami, population 2,321, highlights the controversy behind the tickets, which make stoplight-running motorists see red, but help keep the budgets of cities and towns in the black. New Miami will almost certainly go bankrupt if the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse a lower court’s ruling and spare it from refunding tens of thousands of tickets at $180 apiece plus interest.

The case of New Miami is seen by many drivers across the country – including numerous lawmakers and lawyers – as the epitome of municipalities abusing their power by setting up speed traps and red light cameras in an attempt, not to make roadways safer, but to line their coffers.

“As with most issues there are elements of truth on both sides,” Bill Seitz, a Republican state representative from Ohio, told Fox News. “But many of these jurisdictions are using these tickets as revenue enhancements that ticket people for only minor infractions.”

Seitz is currently working to push a bill through the Ohio statehouse that would require cities to file all traffic camera cases in municipal court and would reduce state funding to cities by the same amount cities collect in traffic camera revenue.

The Ohio representative, who himself was caught on camera rolling through a red light in Columbus, added that in 2006 and 2014 lawmakers approved restrictions on photo enforcement cameras and that limits or bands on the devices enjoy wide support in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland.

The current animosity directed at the cameras marks a shift in public sentiment toward the cameras.

While it is tough to pinpoint the national pulse as most studies are conducted at a state and regional level, but it appears that there are a growing number of areas who are starting to question whether the speed camera programs are effective or even constitutional.

Seven states are currently considering legislation to prohibit red light and speed camera use amid concerns that they are ripe for abuse and IIHS study found that the number of red light cameras in the U.S. dropped to 467 in 2015 from its peak of 553 in 2012.

“It’s really a money making venture,” Israel Klein, a lawyer in New York City, told Fox News. “They’re raking in the dollars and it’s an extreme abuse of power.”

Klein earlier this year filed a class action lawsuit against the city that argues that speed camera tickets are invalid and violate New York state law as the city failed to file all of the required paperwork with the court before allowing a private contractor to drop the photo ticket in the mail. New York City’s 2018 budget expects to haul in $119 million in photo enforcement fines.

“City officials don’t care about the law as long as they’re making money,” Klein added.

Proponents of the cameras, however, argue that they significantly lower the number of accidents on the road as both speeding and going through red lights are two of the biggest causes of car crashes in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The most recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that nearly 1,300 lives were saved through 2014 in 79 large U.S. cities that installed red light cameras and, in a study of one county in Maryland, radar cameras installed on local roads reduced fatal or incapacitating injuries by 39 percent.

“Red light running is one of the biggest factors in crashes,” Russ Rader, a spokesman for the IIHS, told Fox News. “But [these crashes] are sharply reduced when cities use red light cameras.”

But a slew of recent corruption cases across the country involving local government officials and companies selling the cameras is not helping the image of them as moneymakers for municipalities.

In Chicago, camera vendor Redflex won in 2003 a $120 million contract to install 384 cameras and collected more than $400 million in traffic fines. It was eventually revealed that Redflex bribed Chicago City hall manager John Bills with $2,000 for every camera installed as well as giving him vacations, a condominium in Arizona and Mercedes among other favors.

Bills was eventually sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in a corruption scandal that rocked the city, while two Redflex higher-ups were sent to jail and the company was forced to pay $20 million to the city to settle a lawsuit.

Redflex did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

In Ohio, New Miami will have to wait to see if the state’s Supreme Court decides to take a look at their plea – something it only does with roughly seven percent of cases filed annually. Engel, the plaintiff’s lawyer, says he believes that going to the state’s highest court is just another move by the village to delay making their payments.

“The village is well aware that the chances of the Supreme Court deciding to hear this issue is slim. So why are they pursuing this Hail Mary?” Engel told the Journal-News. “This is another stalling tactic to further delay having to pay back the money taken from motorists in an unconstitutional scheme.”

By Andrew O’Reilly and originally published on Fox News on March 14, 2018 and can be found here.

Traffic Light Cameras Featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and now they have been featured on Tucker Carlson Tonight!.

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State board concedes it violated free speech rights of red-light camera critic

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.

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A state panel violated a Beaverton man’s free speech rights by claiming he had unlawfully used the title “engineer” and by fining him when he repeatedly challenged Oregon’s traffic-signal timing before local media and policymakers, Oregon’s attorney general has ruled.

Oregon’s Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying unconstitutionally applied state law governing engineering practice to Mats Järlström when he exercised his free speech about traffic lights and described himself as an engineer since he was doing so “in a noncommercial” setting and not soliciting professional business, the state Department of Justice has conceded.

“We have admitted to violating Mr. Järlström’s rights,” said Christina L. Beatty-Walters, senior assistant attorney general, in federal court Monday.

The state’s regulation of Järlström under engineering practice law “was not narrowly tailored to any compelling state interests,” she wrote in court papers.

In April, Järlström joined with the national Institute for Justice in filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against members of the state engineering board. The suit contends state law and the board’s actions that disallow anyone from using the word “engineer” if they’re not an Oregon-licensed professional engineer amount to an “unconstitutional ban on mathematical debate.”

Järlström and his lawyers argued that’s not good enough.

They contend Järlström isn’t alone in getting snared by the state board’s aggressive and “overbroad” interpretation of state law.

They contend others have been investigated improperly and want the court to look broader at the state law and its administrative rules and declare them unconstitutional. In the alternative, the state law should be restricted to only regulating engineering communications that are made as part of paid employment or a contractual agreement.

“The existence of these laws and the way they’ve been applied time and time again has violated free speech rights,” argued attorney Samuel Gedge, of the national Institute for Justice. “Past history suggests the board can’t be trusted on how the laws should be applied constitutionally.”

Red light camera critic says state board quashing his free speech

Mats Jarlstrom, who has a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Sweden and has repeatedly challenged Oregon’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short, was investigated by a state engineering board for the “unlicensed practice of engineering” and fined $500. He’s not alone.

Jarlstrom has a bachelor of science degree in engineering and has repeatedly challenged the state’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short. The state board had fined him $500 for “unlicensed practice of engineering.” Järlström identified himself as an engineer in emails he sent to city officials and the Washington County sheriff challenging the traffic light signal timing.

Järlström’s interest in the matter stemmed from a red-light-running ticket that his wife received in the mail in 2013. Since then, Järlström has conducted his own studies, presented his findings to local media and “60 Minutes” and even to the annual meeting last summer of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

Järlström is a Swedish-born electronics engineer. After serving as an airplane-camera mechanic in the Swedish Air Force, he worked for Luxor Electronics and immigrated to the United States in 1992, settling in Oregon. Currently, he’s self-employed, testing audio products and repairing and calibrating test instruments.

Another case cited in Järlström’s lawsuit, for example, is the state board investigation of Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, launched after receiving a complaint in 2014 that the Voters’ Pamphlet described Saltzman’s background as an “environmental engineer.” Saltzman earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental and civil engineering from Cornell University and a master’s degree from MIT School of Civil Engineering.

He isn’t, however, an Oregon-licensed professional engineer. The board ended up warning Saltzman against using the word “engineer” in incorrect ways.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman presented the state’s lawyer with several hypothetical scenarios, attempting to understand what constitutes professional or commercial speech: What if someone had paid Järlström to present his points, would that be commercial speech regulated by the state board? What if someone had hired Järlström pro bono to do research on the traffic light timing and present his findings, would that constitute professional speech?

If the court and the state’s lawyer are having trouble properly defining what constitutes “commercial or professional” speech on engineering that the state board can regulate, “how can we expect the board to apply these rules in a constitutional way?” Beckerman asked.

The judge pressed further: “If the board got it wrong in this case, why should the court defer to the board going forward?”

That’s why the state engineering board would have to exercise caution with each case, Beatty-Walters replied.

Järlström’s lawyer argued that the state essentially is trying to close Järlström’s case without allowing him to seek the relief he wants.

“The board’s proposed judgment goes nowhere close to what Mr. Järlström is seeking,” Gedge said. “Mr. Järlström should have the right to present his case for all of the relief he’s seeking.”

The judge said she will issue her findings in two to three weeks.

Both sides can then challenge the findings, and the matter would be referred to U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown, who would decide whether to adopt the magistrate judge’s decision.

By: Maxine Bernstein and published on Oregon Live on December 4, 2017 and can be seen here.

Speed cameras for Roosevelt Blvd. face hard road in Pa. legislature

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  Evidently Philadelphia is trying to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Thankfully the efforts to install them may not be fruitful as described in the article below.

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Philadelphia planners hope speed cameras will play a significant role in the city’s effort to make streets safer, but first, the technology needs to be legalized. 

The path to legalization might be a rough one.

The effort was the focus of a panel Thursday morning at the Center City law offices of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads that was equal parts policy discussion, rally, and fund-raising event. The event was designed to boost support for pending legislation to allow the city to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.

“It is absolutely necessary, and I don’t know another way to slow people down,” said Republican State Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Philadelphia has about 100 traffic-related fatalities a year (93 in 2017), and typically 10 percent happen on the Boulevard, she said. Of the nine fatal crashes on the Boulevard last year, seven involved pedestrians.

If authorized, cameras would snap an image of any vehicle driving 11 mph over the speed limit. The fine would be $150 for a first offense. The Boulevard would have up to nine speed cameras along nearly 12 miles, advertised by warning signs every two miles.

The legislation has been approved by the House transportation committee, which Taylor chairs. The challenge, he said, will be convincing House leadership to list the bill for a vote. That would need to happen by spring to give time for a vote in this legislative session, he said.

And there’s another deadline approaching: Taylor, who has championed the bill, is retiring when his term expires this year.

Taylor also noted the political landscape in Harrisburg, which just completed a grueling budget process. The Pennsylvania House speaker, Republican Mike Turzai, is running for governor, and the majority leader, Republican Dave Reed, is running for Congress.

In that environment, he said, getting legislators to focus on a bill that will result in more speeding violations for their constituents is a tough sell. Taylor has combined the  authorization for cameras on the Boulevard with another proposal for the cameras to be used on highway work zones to protect workers, something he thinks will be more palatable to legislators.

The Vision Zero Alliance, which is pushing safe streets efforts in Philadelphia, has hired a lobbying firm, Arena Strategies, to promote the bill and pitched to business leaders at Thursday’s session the need for $50,000 to fund the effort, said Jason Duckworth, a developer and member of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

One of the most horrific crashes on the Boulevard killed a woman and three of her children. Samara Banks, 27, was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard with her sister and four children in July 2013 when she was struck by a car that had been drag racing. The driver of that vehicle was found guilty of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment, though convictions on third-degree murder were later reversed by an appeals judge.

“There’s people who don’t agree with the speed cameras,” said LaTanya Byrd, Banks’ aunt, who spoke at Thursday’s event. “We all want our lives to be safe. I just feel like we need to do this.”

Byrd noted that some call the road “the Killovard.”

Among the opponents is Thomas McCarey of the National Motorists Association, who says speed cameras are primarily a revenue generator for government. Making roads safer, he said, could be accomplished by timing traffic lights differently, adding more traffic enforcement, and putting crosswalks underground.

The Pennsylvania bill is written to keep the cameras from being a revenue generator, said Jana Tidwell, a spokeswoman from AAA. It ensures that the contractor responsible for the cameras would not make more money if more violations are issued, requires signs posted on roads to warn drivers that speed cameras are active in the area, and specifies that all revenue would go to the state’s motor vehicle license fund, she said.

The speed camera program would likely be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is now responsible for the red light cameras in Philadelphia. Fifty of Philadelphia’s 134 red-light cameras are at nine Boulevard intersections, and violations have dropped there. Tidwell has said the cameras decreased right-angle crashes at those intersections.

The program, however, was marred by technical problems and mismanagement in 2016. Poorly calibrated cameras generated hundreds of thousands of false violations, which then had to be weeded out by PPA workers. That cost the agency $123,000 in overtime payments in 2016.

“Speed cameras will be an even bigger failure,” McCarey said. “Speed cameras won’t stop the 3 percent of wanton speeders endangering us all, only traffic cops can.”

Overtime costs were significantly lower in 2017 after adjustments made to the cameras, PPA officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board studied the role of speed in fatal crashes and found it was a factor in almost a third of all traffic-related deaths nationwide from 2005 to 2014. The federal transportation watchdog recommended speed cameras as an effective way to slow down drivers, noting another study found the cameras reduced all crashes by 49 percent and serious injuries and deaths by 44 percent.

If the House passes the speed camera bill, it would need to go back to the Senate for a vote on amendments and then return to the House for a final approval before going to the governor.

By: Jason Laughlin, originally published on January 25, 2018 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and can be seen here.

 

 

 

A Collection of Traffic Law Writings by James W. Cushing

Over the course of my career, I have written extensively on traffic law.  These writings have been published in The Legal IntelligencerUpon Further Review, and The Pennsylvania Family Lawyer as well as posted onto my blog.  I have collected these articles and blog posts and have listed them below.  Thanks for reading!

Articles:

Blog Posts:

Iowa’s Supreme Court Hears Dispute Over $75 Speeding Ticket

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now.  A woman called Merrit Kennedy, writing for NPR, relates the story of Marla Leaf who litigated her camera-ticket all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court.

My other writings on Traffic Cameras can be found here:

Articles:

Blog Posts:

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A dispute over a $75 speeding ticket has climbed through the levels of Iowa’s court system, reaching the lofty heights of the Iowa Supreme Court for oral arguments.

Marla Leaf got a speeding ticket because a camera allegedly caught her driving 68 mph in a 55-mph zone on an interstate freeway through the city of Cedar Rapids in February 2015.

It’s not typical for the state’s top court to hear small-claims cases. But in her case against the city of Cedar Rapids, Leaf argues that her constitutional rights and state law were violated because the city delegated police powers to the private company that maintains the speed cameras.

Opponents of automated traffic enforcement may view such cameras as “unduly intrusive, unfair and simply amounting to sophisticated speed traps designed to raise funds for cash-strapped municipalities by ensnaring unsuspected car owners in a municipal bureaucracy under the circumstances where most busy people find it preferable to shut up and pay rather than to scream and to fight,” Leaf’s attorney, James Larew, told the justices on Wednesday.

He said his clients “refuse to be stilled.” Leaf’s case has been joined with another that involves similar issues.

At various levels of Iowa’s court system over more than two years, Leaf has said she believes she was not speeding, especially because of slippery road conditions that day. The cameras are triggered if they record speeds of more than 12 miles over the speed limit.

Leaf’s case argues that it is unlawful to give the authority to assess speeding — something it says is police work — to the private camera company, Gatso.

Can the assessment of a municipal violation be done, Larew asked, “by the police department appointing a friend of theirs to serve as a hearing officer?”

Lower Iowa courts have been satisfied that the system is constitutional because it is the police department — and not the private company — that ultimately makes the decision to issue a speeding ticket.

“There is never a citation issued that does not get reviewed and approved by a police officer,” Gatso attorney Paul Burns told the justices. According to court documents, Gatso receives $25 per citation.

Larew also argued that there is no valid safety reason for the camera system on Interstate 380 — also the site of alleged speeding violations by the other parties to the case. He said the cameras don’t issue tickets to semitrailers and government vehicles, calling the discrepancy arbitrary and a violation of equal protection.

The camera system works by focusing on back license plates, which government vehicles do not have in Iowa. Patricia Kropf, an attorney for the city, told the court that the excluded vehicles are “just not in the database that we need to use to do this in a cost-effective manner.”

Burns also claimed that photographs taken of front license plates would potentially pose privacy concerns because the faces of passengers in the vehicle might be included.

Larew also challenged whether it is constitutional for the city of Cedar Rapids to assess fines for speed on federal interstate highways.

The future of certain speed cameras is up in the air across the state, The Gazette newspaper writes:

“In March 2015, the Iowa [Department of Transportation] ordered 10 of 34 camera locations on primary highways and interstates around the state turned off, and another three moved or modified, stating they didn’t improve the safety of the highway system. After losing an appeal to the Iowa DOT director, the cities of Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine — three of six cities in Iowa with traffic cameras on state highways or interstates under Iowa DOT control — sued in June 2015 to keep the cameras on.”

By: Merrit Kennedy and originally published by NPR on The Two-Way on September 20, 2017 and can be found here.

 

Court strikes down law limiting cities’ use of red-light cameras

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now.  There has been some recent activity in Ohio (see here) but it seems Ohio has taken a step backward on this issue; to that end, a recent article on this subject is reproduced below and can be found here.

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By DAN SEWELL, Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld cities’ use of traffic camera enforcement for a third time, striking down as unconstitutional legislative restrictions that included requiring a police officer to be present.

The ruling was 5-2 in support of the city of Dayton’s challenge of provisions in a state law that took effect in 2015. The city said it improperly limited local control and undercut camera enforcement that makes cities safer by reducing red-light running and speeding. Dayton and other cities including Toledo and Springfield said the law’s restrictions made traffic cameras cost-prohibitive.

The court Wednesday ruled illegal requirements in the law that an officer be present when cameras were being used, that there must be a lengthy safety study and public information campaign before cameras are used, and that drivers could be only ticketed if they exceeded the posted limit by certain amounts, such as by 6 mph in a school zone.

A majority opinion written by Justice Patrick Fischer found those three restrictions “unconstitutionally (limit) the municipality’s home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest.”

The state’s highest court has twice previously ruled for cities on cameras.

Justice Patrick DeWine wrote a dissenting opinion, saying the legislation was “a compromise” meant to deal with concerns that cameras were being misused to generate revenue while allowing municipalities “some opportunity” to employ cameras.

“Today’s decision has the unfortunate impact of further muddling a body of law that is already hopelessly confused,” DeWine wrote. Justice William O’Neill also dissented.

The state had contended that the law was within the legislature’s powers as a “statewide and comprehensive” way to regulate enforcement of traffic. Supporters said officers were needed to detect camera malfunctions and situations that clearly call for an exemption from ticketing.

An Ohio state senator who helped write the law called the decision a “Pyrrhic victory” for home-rule cities and villages and pledged Wednesday that legislators will keep fighting “policing for profit.” Cincinnati Republican Sen. Bill Seitz said the Legislature has “other tools in the tool kit,” such as reducing amounts cities and villages receive through the state’s local government fund

Dayton police, whose use of traffic cameras goes back nearly 15 years, were already planning to soon resume using officer-manned fixed cameras at certain sites, saying traffic crashes had shot up after camera enforcement halted. Dayton is also among cities equipping some officers with new hand-held cameras to record violations.

City spokeswoman Toni Bankston said Dayton is pleased with the court’s decision.

“In light of this ruling, we will begin the process of reviewing and analyzing the best way to proceed with our enforcement program,” Bankston said in a statement.

Ohio has been a battleground for years in the debate across the United States over camera enforcement. Critics say cities use them to boost revenues while violating motorists’ rights. Supporters say they increase safety and free up police for other crime fighting.

Attorney General’s spokesman Dan Tierney said Wednesday the case couldn’t be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it involved a solely state law.

 

Associated Press reporter Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed.

Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

 

Speed Cameras Ruled Unconstitutional, City Has to Pay Back Ticketed Drivers

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (see below) and it now seems that the tide is beginning to turn and they are slowly falling into disfavor.  A couple of weeks ago I posted about a case in Alabama (the last link in the list below) and now a Court in Ohio has now declared the cameras unconstitutional!

A recent article on this subject is reproduced below and can be found here.

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Judge orders Ohio village to pay back $3 million to lead-footed drivers

Speed cameras became a cash cow for the small village of New Miami, Ohio.

The town, with a population of about 2,200, collected over $3 million in revenue from heavy-footed motorists after it installed stand-alone speed cameras along one of its major throughways, US 127. The speed cameras in New Miami, which is less than one square mile, automatically fined motorists $95 if they drove faster than 50 miles per hour.

It proved to be a lucrative venture for the village just 35 miles north of Cincinnati. Flush with cash, it raised its annual budget from roughly $1.5 million to $2.5 million in 2013.

But now, the Village of New Miami must pay back every cent of the $3 million it collected from the speed cameras, which were ruled “unconstitutional” in 2014 when drivers filed a class-action lawsuit against the village.

An Ohio judge ruled in favor of drivers, who claimed they were unfairly ticketed.

“Any collection or retention of the monies collected under the ordinance was wrongful,” Butler County Ohio Judge Michael Oster wrote in his decision last week.

The village reportedly cited almost 45,000 people and collected $1.8 million during the 15 months the cameras were tracking drivers. The village paid another $1.2 million to Optotraffic, the company that ran the speed camera program.

“We’re gratified and we’re getting closer to being able to show the drivers that we’re going to be able to put some money back into their pockets,” Mike Allen, attorney for the plaintiffs in the class-action suit told, Fox News. “Any municipality that enacts speed camera legislation can expect their budgets to swell.”

The village has reportedly spent over $100,000 in taxpayer dollars on lawyer fees defending itself in the case. A lawyer for New Miami told Fox News that it planned to appeal the decision.

“We could see the direction that this was going and we’re disappointed in the outcome,” James Englert, the village’s outside counsel, told Fox News. “We think the village has it right.”

Josh Engel, who is also representing the drivers, told Fox News that despite Englert and the village’s efforts to appeal, he is “confident” the decision will be upheld.

“Judge Oster upheld a basic constitutional principal that municipalities have to provide due process to people, and if they don’t do that, they have to refund the money,” Engel told Fox News. “The village has spent a huge amount of public money trying to defend this statute and at some point, someone in the community has to say, ‘we need to stop spending money on lawyers and just own up to our responsibilities.’”

The judge asked the attorneys representing the motorists to provide the court with a spreadsheet detailing how much their clients had to pay in tickets.

On March 3rd, Allen and Engel will ask the judge to order the immediate return of the money to the wrongfully ticketed drivers.

“This is a big victory,” Allen told Fox News, “on the way.”

By Brooke Singman

Published on February 13, 2017 on foxnews.com

 

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