A former U.S. attorney says claims in the legislature that red light cameras are unconstitutional are just plain wrong. Ed Dowd was joined by police chiefs, community leaders, and a victim’s family to make his point at the Capitol a week after the Senate passed a ban on the use of the cameras.
Dowd represented the city of Arnold in a red light cameras case that went to a St. Louis District Court, where a judge ruled the cameras are completely legal in Missouri.
Dowd says there’s some confusion about a case out of Springfield, where he says the state Supreme Court ruled that city’s law unconstitutional in a ‘narrow’ decision.
“Nowhere does the court say there’s anything wrong with red light camera safety systems. The court simply said the system set up in Springfield did not give the alleged violator the right to go to municipal court to challenge their ticket,” Dowd said.
He also refutes claims in the legislature the often the goal of the 33 Missouri cities that currently use the cameras is to generate extra revenue by writing tickets. He points to documented decreases in accidents at dangerous intersections in places like Kansas City after cameras were put in.
Long time Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman also addressed that issue. Hindman says he believes the idea of putting in a system to raise money would be a ‘self-defeating process.’ He says the goal is to change behaviors, and over time, when the amount of red-light-running incidents would be reduced; so would the amount of fines collected.
“It’s certainly for safety purposes in Columbia. We have no expectation that it will generate money over and above the costs of implementing it and paying the camera people a certain percentage,” Hindman said.
He also pointed out that all they are doing is enforcing the law, on people who have broken the law. He says that’s no different than any other driving infraction, except it’s impossible to have a police officer stationed at each dangerous intersection 24/7.
There are the also stories of people like Kathy Tremeear, who lost her 10 year old daughter to an accident when their van was hit by a person running a red light in 2002.
“She would be 18 in 12 days… I think if there were red light cameras at the time, Kayla would still be here,” Tremeear said.
Tremeear was with the group at the Capitol, sharing her story as part of the argument for the camera systems.
The ban in question is part of a larger bill of traffic safety issues that has been sent to the House.