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Texas Gov. Makes Life-Saving Red Light Cameras Illegal

Texas Governor Greg Abbott after signing a bill banning red light cameras in the Lone Star State. Photo: Twitter

With a knowing smirk and a steely gaze, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott set public safety back decades this weekend when he outlawed traffic cameras in the Lone Star State.

In his office at the state capitol in Austin on Saturday, Abbott signed a bill that would effectively ban cameras from taking images of vehicles speeding through intersections and automatically mailing a ticket to scofflaw motorists.

The governor tweeted a 25-second video of himself allowing motorists and truckers free rein on Texas's already dangerous roads beginning on Sept. 1. His tweet had been viewed 1.37 million times, and received 61,883 likes and 14,683 retweets in 48 hours.

"Hi, I'm Governor Greg Abbott here at the capitol Saturday signing bills. I’m about to sign this bill that bans red light cameras in Texas," he said, taking 11 seconds to put his John Hancock onto the legislation before holding the paperwork up and proclaiming, “Is now law.”

Abbott did not say how he planned to reduce the 3,721 traffic fatalities and 17,546 serious injuries from 14,299 crashes on Texas roadways in 2017. A spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the measure.

Lawmakers have been trying to dispose the speed cameras since they were introduced statewide in 2007. The latest bill, put forward in February by North Texas Republican firebrand Jonathan Strickland, managed to attract bipartisan support and was popular with vehicle-owning voters who loathed the $75 fine they were forced to pay whenever they broke the law.

Strickland argued that the cameras violated the constitution, telling Fox 7, "We think that the right to due process matters. You have the right to face your accuser in court."

The Texas Supreme Court played along, dismissing a lawsuit challenging the legality of a red light camera ban in May, days before Texas House passed the bill.

The issue has created odd bedfellows in the largely conservative state between transportation advocates and law enforcement officers who want safer streets. "The City of Plano red light camera program has reduced crashes and been effective in increasing traffic safety," Plano police Chief Gregory Rushin told the Dallas Morning News.

Even some of Abbott's allies were shocked by the move.

"Governor, I love you and I'll always vote for you cuz we're friends and I think you do a great job," tweeted former Republican state legislator Joe Driver. "T-bone crashes at red lights kill people."

Some Texas cities aren't even waiting for the ink on the law to dry to act. The Haltom City Police Department terminated its contract with Redflex, a speed camera company, on Monday.

There are reams of evidence that speed and red light cameras deter moving violations and save lives. In New York City, which has had a very limited speed camera program at 140 schools since 2014, more than five million moving violations were issued. More than 80 percent of drivers never get a second ticket, according to city statistics.

Automated enforcement, however, is typically opposed by police unions.

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