Five Gwinnett cities — Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee - have either thrown in the towel on red-light cameras at high-traffic intersections or plan to drastically curtail their use.
To which I say, hallelujah!
For this, credit should go to State Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cartersville), who introduced legislation last year that put reasonable restrictions on their use. His legislation, passed into law, took the regulation of red-light cameras from the cities that were using them as ATMs and put them under the Georgia Department of Transportation.
It also required the cities that employed them to “provide demonstrable evidence that there is a genuine safety need.” Safety and not the revenue to be generated had to be the deciding factor. “The only consideration shall be the increased lifesaving value,” the bill stipulated
Importantly, too, local governments couldn’t tinker with the signal timing to gin up dollars. “The minimal yellow light change interval shall be established in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards” plus one second, the law provided.
It was a fine example of a conservative legislator checking the power of goverment to exploit and abuse its citizens.
Lilburn’s city manager, Bill Johnsa, told the AJC’s Shane Blatt that in the January before Loudermilk’s bill was passed, Lilburn issued almost 1,500 citations at three intersections with red-light cameras. A year later, after the new law went into effect, citations dropped to 300. “Certainly our high-speed accidents are down, so [the cameras] are working,” he said. “But when you build your budget around those sources of revenue, it’s difficult.” Lilburn pays $1,200 for use of the cameras.
Suwanee suspended use of the cameras in January. “With the changing of the lights,” said Mayor Dave Williams, “violations dropped so much that it was going to cost taxpayers a significant amount of money to continue to have those cameras in place.”
The cameras never were about traffic safety so much as they were the local version of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed $200 ”fee” on “super-speeders” to raise money for a new trauma care program, or the various add-on that legislators have tacked on to fines and court-filings over the years. Their primary purpose is to generate revenues from a class of people who can temporarily be classified as unworthy — the super-speeders or red-light runners, for example.
When it truly is about safety, as the Loudermilk bill required, the red-light revenue stream dries up.
To which I say, good riddance.