On June 2nd, Texas governor Greg Abbott recorded himself on Twitter signing House Bill 1631 making it “new law”. Red light cameras were initially thought to reduce car wrecks. The city thought that they could use this automated system to take photos of license plates and send tickets and fines to those who ran through intersections with a red light.
However, the reality is, these “red light cameras” became a public nuisance. Some drivers said that the cameras were over-reactive and people were getting automated tickets that were unjustified. Tickets were sent to people whose car was barely across the white line. Some were popped with a ticket for taking a right hand turn while the light was red. And of course there were those that entered the intersection while the light was yellow but the camera captured the license plate the moment the light turned red. Texas citizens were reporting these kinds of frustrations with police departments across Texas.
To make matters worse, there is actually very little evidence that automated red light camera systems improve safety at all. In fact, numerous studies actually suggest the opposite may be true.
The new law took effect immediately after Governor Abbott signed the bill. There is one minor exception: the law allows communities to complete their contracts with the private companies that operate these cameras unless there is a clause that allows state law to break the contract. According to the state, only a few cities in Texas have these contracts and it will only be a few years until all cameras are obsolete.
This new law will prohibit the use of “photographic traffic signal enforcement systems” which is a step in the right direction for people who want to protect their rights. As Senator Bob Hall explained:
“Red-light cameras violate the right to due process guaranteed under Article 1 of the Texas Constitution by creating a presumption that the registered owner of the car committed a violation when in fact that may not have been the case.”
Everyone’s situation is unique and this new law will help protect our right explain our case in court when the system makes a mistake.