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Ask 2: Why did Texas outlaw red light cameras when red light running is rampant and increasing?

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HOUSTONAt KPRC 2, we’re dedicated to keeping Houstonians informed. As part of our new Ask 2 series, the newsroom will answer your questions about all things Houston.

The question: Why did Texas outlaw red-light cameras when red-light running is rampant and increasing?

The answer: Red light cameras have been a divisive topic in Texas for years. They were outlawed by the state in 2019.

When red light cameras were legal, some cities installed them at intersections to stop people from running red lights. They operated by taking photos of cars running the lights and issuing citations to owners of the offending vehicles.

Cities justified red-light programs from a safety perspective, asserting that they reduce collisions at intersections and, therefore, save lives. As a secondary effect, the programs also generated millions of dollars in revenue for the cities every year.

Critics of the cameras make various arguments against them. Many see them as a symbol of government overreach. They argue that the camera programs are unconstitutional because they violate a driver’s right to due process by not allowing the accused to confront their accuser. Some people think the main intent of red light cameras is revenue generation instead of safety. Still, others say that the cameras actually decrease safety at intersections.

The “safety” argument against the cameras goes like this: To avoid getting cited for running a red light, drivers slam on their brakes at an intersection as a light is turning red. These quick stops actually result in more rear-end collisions.

Obviously, this argument runs counter to cities’ safety justification for the cameras.

In Sugar Land, data shows that red light cameras actually did improve safety. While red light cameras were in operation, the city observed a 50% reduction in accidents at monitored intersections over the first six to eight years that the cameras were in operation.

Related Article: Turned off! Sugar Land residents react to red-light traffic camera ban

Ultimately, conservative lawmakers sided with the critics. They prevailed in banning red-light cameras in Texas. But despite the ban, a few cities still have red light camera programs in operation. In the Houston area, Humble is one of them.

By law, the state cannot negate or terminate a government contract as a direct result of new legislation. Therefore, if a city is under contract with an outside vendor to operate red-light cameras, the programs can continue for the duration of the contract unless there is a specific clause in the contract allowing for early termination in the event of a state ban.

Humble’s contract to operate red-light cameras ends in 2024. The red light cameras will stay in place until then.

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