Ohio Case Raises Questions About Traffic Cameras

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A judge has ruled that the revenues from new traffic enforcement cameras in a small village in southwest Ohio will not be used to settle a $1.8 million dollar lawsuit over an earlier traffic camera program, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Motorists in New Miami, Oh., requested that the town pay the damages they are owed for their victory in a 2013 class action case, in which motorists claimed the town violated their due process rights through the use of speed cameras at intersections, using money collected by new handheld speed cameras. Butler County Judge Michael Oster rejected the idea, calling garnishment an “extraordinary remedy,” that there is no evidence that the new program is defrauding drivers.

Traffic enforcement cameras are becoming common. As of 2009, they were in use in about 400 cities and towns. Communities from Texas to Illinois to Ohio have engaged in dialogue and sometimes legal action around the issue. With so much at stake, are red-light cameras worthwhile for towns like New Miami? “The way the cameras are implemented makes a big difference,” says Ohio State University law professor Ric Simmons. “People react to the cameras very differently depending on the way they used.” Local law enforcement says cameras can save towns money by enforcing traffic laws without requiring the presence of police officers. Despite the potential benefits, many see speed and red-light cameras as little more than revenue generators for towns like New Miami. Simmons says towns often don’t review photographs taken by the camera to see if traffic violations have really occurred, or even if police are sending citations to the right individuals. Municipalities have also been criticized for using revenue generated by the cameras for general operating budgets, and not for infrastructure purposes.

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