HOUSTON - Love 'em or hate 'em, red-light cameras mostly became a thing of the past in Texas Saturday when Gov. Gregg Abbott signed House Bill 1631 into law.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, passed by large margins in both the Texas House and Senate.
The cameras, which are mounted at intersections in about 35 Texas towns and cities, automatically photographed drivers who run red lights, and generated traffic tickets by reading license plates.
Critics said the law authorizing red-light cameras is unconstitutional because the accused could not confront their accuser.
Sugar Land driver Michelle Fraslin said she’s glad to see them go.
“I don’t like the idea of a red-light camera. I feel like they’re setting you up for failure. If you're going to do something illegal, an officer needs to see you do it and stop you for it,” Fraslin said.
Critics also contended that the camera increased the incidents of rear-end collisions at intersections as some drivers hit the brake suddenly when a signal began to change.
But the bill was largely opposed by law enforcement.
Chief Eric Robins of Sugar Land spoke against it during the session. He said the red-light cameras made his town’s streets safer.
“Over the years, when we first started, accidents actually decreased by 50 percent in the first six to eight years we had it. So accidents did go down and we do believe it was a good tool,” Robins said.
And those words were echoed Monday by drivers like David McWalters
“I feel safer having them on. I know if I have kids and I'm going through an intersection, if the red light cameras deter people from running red-lights then that makes me feel safer,” McWalters said.
Sugar Land installed six cameras in 2009. They were turned off Sunday, the day after the bill was signed. City crews were removing signage from the intersections Monday afternoon.
However, not all cameras in Texas will go out of service immediately. The law stipulates cities can continue operating the cameras until their contracts with the camera vendors expire.
In the Houston area, that includes the city of Humble. Its cameras will stay in service until 2024.
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