Texas Gov. Makes Life-Saving Red Light Cameras Illegal

Greg Abbott signed a law banning traffic cameras — and making Lone Star streets less safe.

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

31 thoughts on Texas Gov. Makes Life-Saving Red Light Cameras Illegal

  1. Does anyone know if the red light and/or speed cameras in NYC are operated through a private contractor? Not a big deal to me either way but it does seem to be one of those things that critics harp on.

  2. You present no evidence that supports your headline.

    HILARIOUS

    Study after study shows that accidents and fatalities go UP when they install these things. Couldn’t be because they start tinkering with yellow light timing could it?

  3. Who’s paying for this shitty blog? Redflex? “Life saving” my ass.

    What a bullshit biased piece.

  4. 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.”

    Can’t this objection be addressed simply by requiring whomever reviewed the camera evidence and charged the driver with an infraction to also show up in court if the driver contests the charge? That is the expectation for ordinary traffic tickets. It allows the accused to face their accuser.

  5. Interesting reading about Red Light Cameras here.

    You may think the website biased against cameras, but that does not change the outcomes of the studies cited.

    By the way, there’s a video going around of the 16 worst intersection crashes caught on camera. I’d like to point out that these intersections obviously had cameras (we know this because we have the videos, right?) and that those accidents happened anyway. So much for the argument that cameras would have prevented them…..

  6. Lokki – Not all cameras are red-light cameras. For example around where I commute there are a large number of cameras used for vehicle detection which is then used to control traffic light timing. While the video feed is sometimes used after the fact for investigation into collisions, the video is not used to issue routine traffic violations.

  7. Shame on him- by husband , Rubin Baum was killed on September 22, 2012 by a speeding driver on 59th street and Park Avenue in Manhattan in NYC.

  8. A twelve year study of red light cameras in Texas by Case Western Reserve University found no net safety benefits from the cameras. Several of the cities ending their for-profit camera programs used Redflex as the for-profit vendor. There are now five guilty pleas or verdicts in federal Redflex-related cases for fraud, bribery or extortion in just two of twelve states where former Redflex officials say the crimes happened. There have been 42 public votes on red light and/or speed cameras and the cameras lost 38 of the votes because the true purpose for them is now well known to be profits, not safety. Ticket cameras should be banned by law in every state, because as actually deployed they are always for-profit rackets.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  9. It’s confirmed: Texas is run by redneck a-hole republicans who only keep their seats because of excessive gerrymandering. Cheating seems like all the right has left to offer the public.

  10. James C. Walker is a liar.
    Red light cameras have been proven over and over again to save lives.

  11. James C Walker, the Case Western Reserve study found a that red light cameras increase fender bender crashes significantly, but they reduce T bone crashes by a quarter. There are a lot more fender benders than there are T bone crashes, so of course the overall number of crashes and economic impact of crashes increased. But the study proves that the cameras save lives and protects people from bodily injury. To claim otherwise is ridiculous.

  12. Wow. Traffic cameras are never about safety. If the red light cameras don’t bring in enough money they shorten the yellow light to increase revenue. Ohio killed theirs a couple years ago and one of the cities tried arguing in court that theirs should still be permitted because they don’t assign points, it is basically a use fee for the privilege to run red lights.

  13. Red light camera make money for red light camera companies. That is their ONLY purpose and the only thing they accomplish.

    Studies have shown that red light camera can actually INCREASE the number of accidents at intersections by causing more panic stops.l

  14. The Case Western Reserve University study found no NET safety benefit. It was part of the reason the governor signed to bill to outlaw the predatory for-profit rackets that give most tickets to safe drivers who endangered absolutely no one.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  15. James C. Walker,

    Nonsense. The study found a significant decrease in high angle crashes when red light camera enforcement was employed. Those types of crashes are much more likely to lead to fatality or bodily injury.

    I don’t see how you can argue that the study found no net safety benefit. I read several interviews that the authors of the study gave after the study was published. Even they admitted that there was a reduction in t bone crashes.

  16. The “studies” showing camera enforcement to be effective are conducted by organizations who make money from the cameras: the methodology is flawed and the “outcomes” are decided in advance. No wonder they found the cameras effective.
    Unbiased, methodologically sound studies done by organizations who don’t have any financial stake in cameras have invariably found that the cameras increase accidents, injuries and fatalities.
    Camera enforcement is a for-profit racket that has nothing to do with highway safety, and does, in fact, make highways more dangerous.
    For red light cameras look up Red Light Running Crisis: Is it Intentional? Thenewspaper (dot) com/news/00/5 (dot) asp
    Tom McCarey Member, National Motorists Association

  17. The “studies” showing camera enforcement to be effective are conducted by organizations who make money from the cameras: the methodology is flawed and the “outcomes” are decided in advance. No wonder they found the cameras effective.
    Unbiased, methodologically sound studies done by organizations who don’t have any financial stake in cameras have invariably found that the cameras increase accidents, injuries and fatalities.
    Camera enforcement is for-profit not safety and has nothing to do with highway safety, and does, in fact, make highways more dangerous.
    For red light cameras look up Red Light Running Crisis: Is it Intentional? Thenewspaper (dot) com/news/00/5 (dot) asp
    Tom McCarey Member, National Motorists Association

  18. Elsewhere on Streetsblog you can find support for red light cameras from The National Coalition for Safer Roads. That is logical because the NCSR is a stealth lobby group heavily supported by Verra Mobility – formerly ATS.

    You can also find support from the Insurance Institute for Highway safety for similar financial conflicts of interest. Insurance companies that fund the IIHS often make about $1,000 in premium surcharges when drivers in CA and AZ get tickets – because those tickets are charged to the driver with license points.

    Follow the money trail – it usually reveals the truths.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  19. Lives are saved and jobs are created by red light camera manufacturers? Sounds like a win win, except for distracted drivers and people who drive at excessive speeds and find it difficult to stop when the light turns red. Those are the people that get hit with tickets from red light cameras.

  20. We have them in our city just outside of NYC. They turned very quickly into a cash cow and nothing more.

    There was one in the Bronx that was a huge problem when I was in graduate school. I had to use the access road it was on every morning to get to my lab. It snapped people going through YELLOW lights just as they went from green to yellow. It got to the point where it was causing accidents. Having been burned once, people were jamming on their brakes even when the light was still green – if they felt it was soon going to turn. The people behind would not be expecting it and the result was a bunch of accidents. It actually turned a fairly safe access road into a hazard.

    Look, Im all for catching people who screech through a red light. But frankly, most of the time these have been used in NY it has turned into a money scam.

  21. RGHicks, no doubt that cities have abused red light cameras to maximize revenue. The technology isn’t the issue, it’s how the technology is deployed that is the issue. Texas legislature could have created a law to regulate red light cameras to prevent abuses. They didn’t need to outright ban red light cameras.

  22. For rwy: Your comment is true, a red light camera law could be crafted to prevent the abusive ticketing of safe drivers who endangered no one. The problem with that approach is then the cameras would not collect enough total fines to even pay their own high costs – and they would then become a cost item in city budgets instead of a revenue item. Red light cameras are sold to cities as “free money” by the for-profit camera companies. Without profits, they won’t be used.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  23. Intercession accident statistics shows accident goes up. I almost got killed for stopping on a yellow light with a truck behind
    me stopping in the middle of the interception. I changed lanes at last second. This is a tax and legislators know that.

  24. If I received a $75 fine in the mail a week before this bill was passed for not making a complete stop when making a right turn, do I still have to pay it?

  25. From the outside, it’s funny: some lobbyist telling me that things that will be beneficial are not.
    Notorious liars telling me something.
    I will not beleive.

  26. I got a ticket and I came up to. Light only one car ahead of me and because I don’t speed so drive normal speed and soon as I get past the intersection it turned yellow then quickly to red. The light is a way to get revenue not sad lights.Carol

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