EDITORIAL: Let Colorado state lawmakers end all the traffic-camera cash cows

Local control is important, but using the legislative hammer to put this red-light cash cow out of our misery is more important. End it.

Sometimes, the only way to fix something hopelessly stuck is to bang on it with a hammer.

It’s time to let state lawmakers knock good sense into cities like Denver and Aurora with House Bill 1098. The measure would outlaw robot-camera-traffic enforcement across the state.

redlight1Like many cities and newspapers, we fought this measure in the Legislature last year. Not because we think so-called red-light cameras and similar devices are anything but money-making nuisances backed by mislead police departments and cities, but because the issue is one for local communities, not the state, to decide.
That was then. This is now.

Aurora and a growing number of Colorado towns and cities are increasing the number of these odious devices set up at intersections everywhere. In the case of Aurora, city lawmakers purposely worked to do an end-run around the possibility that a red-light camera ban might pass, signing yet a new contract to keep the cash coming into Aurora coffers.

These tickets are no small problem. Last year, Aurora issued more than 60,000 of them, raking in about $3.4 million. A lot of the cash from these programs go to the companies that lease the systems to governments eager to use them, but these glowing cash cows have become big, big money for communities across the state.

It’s the multi-billion industry hawking these systems that provides “data” to cities, showing how much safer intersections are that install them. But there are no independent, credible studies showing they do anything more than create revenue streams for cities, and in many cases, inflict new dangers on motorists and pedestrians. A local analysis completed by police is interesting, but it’s far from convincing that these devices do much good, and they can do serious harm.

Here are some facts:

• Intersections that are redesigned or change yellow-light length are made much more safer and see far fewer accidents than intersections installing red-light cash cows. About 80 percent of red-light runners run the light within the first second of a red light, according to studies completed by traffic departments in Texas and California. Those states showed a reduction of about 70 percent of red-light violations just by increasing yellow-light times by three seconds or less.

• Cities who use these robot-camera devices give them priority over traffic-light synchronization, which is one of the most effective ways to reduce car crashes.

• The delay between the offense and the punishment is often weeks long. A cop pulling over a driver and issuing a ticket has an immediate impact on a driver. Everyone knows what seeing a cop car does to everyone within eye-shot. But just another bill in the mail, easily avoided by savvy residents, does nothing to change driver behavior.

• These systems only focus on one type of scofflaw. They do nothing to stop or prevent reckless, careless and dangerous drivers, which cause the majority of crashes everywhere.

Since cities, including Aurora, can’t see past the cash, we can’t ignore the wisdom of House Bill 1098, prohibiting cities and counties from inflicting this mess on state residents. This measure, like last year, has bi-partisan support from state lawmakers like Aurora Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll and Republican state Senate President Bill Cadman. Similar heavyweight and bi-partisan support has lined up behind the bill in the state House.
Even Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter from Golden has jumped behind banning these devices, sponsoring a bill in Congress that may not go anywhere but sends a loud message that this is the wrong way to raise city tax dollars.

Local control is important, but using the legislative hammer to put this red-light cash cow out of our misery is more important. End it.

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  • davebarnes

    Oh Dave. Here you go again. Stealing money from the kids.
    The cameras and fines are “for the children” as everyone knows.

  • Joe Hardhat

    I suspect newer, immigrant drivers are the biggest recipients of these nuisance tickets … welcome to America.

    • Attm Motob

      it takes 3 times as many of them to rake in the same amount of cash as they are fined 1/3 as much on average

  • jcwconsult

    The editorial is exactly right, and the cameras must be ended. Contact your state Representatives and Senators to insist they actively and publicly support House Bill 1098 to ban the use of ticket cameras statewide. Enforcement by trained police officers is about safety. Enforcement by cameras is about money and must stop.

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

  • Kevis

    Its about time to get these things gone. As noted, if safety were the goal they’d be increasing the yellow light times – but they won’t because that would reduce the violations and $$ coming in.

  • Agreed. Time for them to go! Make sure you contact all your elected representatives and tell them to vote yes for this bill. The challenge will be Hickenlooper. He supported this technology while mayor of Denver and he didn’t even want to see the bill on his desk last year.

  • srd275

    Read more on Scamera news:

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  • Dastardly Don

    Chicago has the most cameras in the country raking in over $600 million dollars of the last 10 years. We too have legislation pending at the state level because the city is addicted to the money and even after being proved both fradulent and ineffective wont let go.


  • J_Biggs

    Democrats complaining about democrat totalitarianism? How quaint.

  • Retiree

    “by mislead police departments”

    The word is “misled”
    That said, I whole-heartedly agree with this editorial

  • Duncan

    I got a ticket during Christmas, but live out of state. So I refused to acknowledge the ticket until I was personally served per the statute They sent two letters and followed up with a registered letter. What a waste of time!! Officer Trap could easily see I stopped but since I was out of state – issued the ticket anyways. Money grabbing city government at the center of this. Also the yellow lights are way to fast for the speed in the streets. They should rather put flashing yellow lights indicating the light will change based on the speed limit of the street. Good Luck