With a 49-1 vote, the Pennsylvania Senate passed legislation that would expand the state's red light camera program beyond the Philadelphia test program. The program would be expanded to allow more than 50 cities to decide whether or not to install the cameras.
The program is intended to improve traffic safety and to raise money for the cities and state.
The money raised through fines issued for violations caught by the camera will be divided three ways. PennDOT would receive half of the fine money, the state police would receive 25 percent, and the city that installed the cameras would receive the final 25 percent.
Pittsburgh, mired in a pension crisis, would put 75 percent of the money received toward the pension issue and use the other 25 percent on roads.
The pilot program in Philadelphia, begun in 2005, raised $3.9 million by issuing 92,826 citations in 2009, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Critics of the Program
However, the program is not without critics. Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association, notes that 15 states have either banned or severely limited the use of red light cameras.
Gary Biller indicated there may also be due process issues: "You don't have a live witness to an alleged offense. The registered owner is considered guilty until proven innocent."
Senator Jim Ferlo, the lone vote against the cameras in the Pennsylvania Senate, stated: "The bill is just fraught with problems and associated with a lack of due process. I just think it's fundamentally about raising revenue." He further stated: "There's an issue about whether or not it's appropriate for people to be paying fines to fund pensions."
The legislation, as passed by the Senate, may face critics in the House. Representatives Joe Markosek and Rick Geist expressed concern that the language in the legislation was "too broad." Rep. Markosek stated: "That bill went a bit beyond what is reasonable. It's a bit too much."
Another concern is that the cameras may actually increase the number of auto accidents at the intersections where they are installed. Rajiv Shah, a University of Illinois professor, conducted a study that showed that accidents increased by five percent at intersections in the city of Chicago where cameras installed.
Biller noted that in many cases of red-light cameras, "The accident rate actually goes up," and the incidence of rear-end accidents increases. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident at a red light or on the highway, talk to a personal injury attorney to determine if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Experienced attorneys may be able to help you use an existing red-light camera as evidence in your case if you are rear-ended at a stoplight.