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Senate panel OKs some traffic cameras, nixes others

Posted July 23, 2014

— The Senate Rules Committee gave approval Wednesday to bring back Fayetteville's red-light cameras, but another bill that would have allowed license plate-scanning cameras in highway medians is apparently dead for the session. 

The latter bill, House Bill 348, would have allowed the state Department of Transportation to allow law enforcement officials to install the plate scanners along state highways.

Proponents said it would help law enforcement find getaway cars and vehicles sought in Amber Alert and Silver Alert situations. The cameras would also allow police to check whether license plates match the cars to which they're attached.

But on the Senate floor last week, Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca and other Senate leaders criticized the plan as reminiscent of George Orwell's "1984." The measure was sent back to the Rules Committee. 

On Wednesday morning, Apodaca, R-Henderson, announced that the bill "will be resting in the Rules committee throughout the next couple of years." 

Another camera measure on the agenda fared much better. 

House Bill 1151 would allow Fayetteville to resume using red-light cameras.

Like many other North Carolina cities, Fayetteville shut down its red-light cameras after a 2007 court ruling that 90 percent of the revenue from the resulting tickets had to go to schools under state law. Cities could withhold only 10 percent of the money to pay for the cameras, which would not cover the program's cost. 

The new bill offers a workaround by allowing Cumberland County Schools and the city of Fayetteville to enter into an agreement to cover the cost of the camera contract.

Under the legislation, the penalty for running a light would be $75. That fine would increase to $100 in July 2015.

House sponsor Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland, said city and county leaders are asking to bring back the cameras to improve traffic safety and prevent accidents. 

"In the last several days, we have lost three more citizens," he said.  

Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, spoke against the bill, citing a Florida study that found yellow lights were shortened at many camera-controlled intersections, creating a trap for motorists. 

"I'm not so sure this is the right thing to do," Jackson said. "I think we're making a bad mistake here." 

Floyd responded that North Carolina, unlike Florida, dictates by law the required length for a yellow light at a red-light-camera intersection. 

The measure passed the committee easily on a voice vote. It could reach the Senate floor for a vote Wednesday afternoon.

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  • miseem Jul 24, 2014

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    The US House made it impossible for Obama to close Gitmo. They prevented transfer of any prisoners there to US soil by denying any funding for the move or their incarceration in the US. So, not exactly an Obama fail. But you already knew that, didn't you?

  • The Truth 73 Jul 24, 2014

    They are not for safety they are for revenue plain and simple! Cities in NC has been caught shorting yellow light time to catch more people.

  • Matt Wood Jul 24, 2014
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    As a couple people already pointed out, NC already has laws for the minimum yellow light time, and in fact a study done by NCSU (Cunningham & Hummer, 2005) in Raleigh showed that right-angle crashes dropped by 42%, rear-end crashes dropped by 25% and total crashes dropped by 17%.

  • saturn5 Jul 23, 2014

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    The yellow light needs to be long enough to allow you to get through the intersection if you're traveling the speed limit and too close to the stop line to stop safely. Statistics show not only do the shortened yellows increase tickets, they also increase rear end collisions from people trying to stop in an unreasonably short time.

  • Matt Wood Jul 23, 2014
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    If you hit the line at .035 seconds after the red light, then that means you were going too fast for the yellow light, regardless of how long that yellow light was or how long after opposing traffic started moving. You still ran that light!

    I do understand the concern of cameras that grab people who were already in the intersection before the light turned red, but otherwise I would think people would be in favor of freeing up police time to focus on more serious issues. As someone already said, if you're not running red lights, you've got nothing to worry about!

  • commonsenseisn't Jul 23, 2014

    These cameras are for revenue not for safety. Look at the one on S Saunders. All of the lights leading to that intersection are times to allow traffic to go straight through. The intersection where the cameras are turns red four seconds sooner than preceding intersections and the amber light is shorter than the other amber lights.
    I got a ticket there for running a red light .035 seconds after the red light came on. The video showed that no one on the opposing street did not even move for four seconds after I completely cleared the intersection. The signs telling you that the cameras are there are not noticeable.
    You can have a so called trial but it is like a kangaroo court that starts at 4:30 pm. You are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. I had my trial via telephone.
    I was not allowed to ask questions.
    A program like this needs close supervision by a police official and a trial has to be done according to American standards.

  • jlh4jdj Jul 23, 2014

    My thing is always to weigh the value of the "law" or "technique" to enforce the law. With that said I wonder how important this is. Do this cameras actually improve safety more than officers? Is it really a big problem? This is like the LEO who does a U turn in traffic to stop the person with a taillight out. Which is more dangerous? Which can get more people hurt?

  • Billy the Kid Jul 23, 2014

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    Natural selection for the innocent people harmed?

  • Billy the Kid Jul 23, 2014

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    If you don't run red lights, what's the problem?

  • Carl Keehn Jul 23, 2014
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    ... And yet something needs to be done. I have been noticing more people running lights. It isn't even running yellow any more, the lights are red when they enter the intersection.

    Of course we can always regard it as another form of natural selection.

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