IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Ohio House Approves Bill that Would Kill Traffic Cameras

The bill's requirements would make it financially impossible to continue using the cameras, police say.

(TNS) -- Traffic cameras are one step away from disappearing in Columbus and other areas of Ohio.

The House voted 58-31 today to require police to station an officer at every intersection equipped with a camera. Police say that requirement would make it financially impossible to continue using the cameras.

The bill was amended by the House, which means the revised version must be approved Thursday by the Senate. Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the measure.

The vote came even though a House committee heard from a number of police departments this morning in opposition to the bill, including Lt. Jeffrey Sulewski, commander of the Toledo police traffic section. He told the committee today that the city has 44 cameras, including one mobile speed cameras.

From 2000 through 2011, Toledo saw a 2 percent to 17 percent decrease in overall accidents for those locations with red light cameras, Sulewski said. Usage of the mobile speed camera has led to a 70 percent reduction in the number of violations in those areas, and the camera is set at 11 mph over the speed limit to catch violators.

“I’m not looking to issue a lot of tickets. I’m looking to alter that traffic pattern,” he said, adding that the bill would shut down the photo monitoring program in the city.

Sulewski told the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee that he has told his officers reviewing the camera footage to not issue a ticket if they would not issue one if seeing the violation live – noting some discretion when, for example, issuing tickets for right turns on red.

Sulewski said he would support some reform, “but allow us to use this technology.”

Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told Sulewski that while he appreciated his comments, “I’m in favor of a full ban. I don’t think this is the way we should be doing this in the United State of America.”

Huffman noted that an Allen County village, Fort Shawnee, voted itself out of existence after police there were ticketing people for going just a few miles over the 35 mph speed limit through town. Now, he said, the speed limit there is 50 mph.

“Just because there’s a posted speed limit, in reality, doesn’t mean that’s reasonable,” Huffman said. “This is not about what the posted speed limit is. That’s not the law in the state of Ohio. It’s about whether you’re driving a reasonable speed.”

The bill passed committee 7-5, with Democrats voting in opposition.

Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, said it makes sense to pass reasonable reforms to ensure police departments aren’t “playing gotcha” with the cameras. But they should not be essentially eliminated because they are shown to reduce accidents.

Rep. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, the committee chairman, noted that two communities in his region recently voted to ban the devices. He said he also has concerns with the appeals process for the tickets – “It’s very likely that once the ticket is issued, it’s not likely to be canceled.” He also doesn’t like the high percentage of tickets written for right turn on red violations, and that some cities see them as a revenue generator.

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)