Bill Would Allow Signal Cameras

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House bill 4762 is designed to promote safety and give local governments funding options. Municipalities could install cameras at intersections and fine violators up to $130 dollars for running a red light. The only warning drivers would see are signs placed within 500 feet of the intersection.

"The idea behind this is to keep our community safe, to keep those intersections where there is a high incidence of accidents or where the local communities the local police departments know that those lights get run," said Representative Tom Cochran, a democrat from Mason.

As a civil offense it would not be considered a moving violation and would not be reported to insurance companies, go on the person's driving record, or count as points against a driver's license.

But opponents to the red-light ticket cameras argue it's not so much about safety as it is about taking people's money.

"I think it's a money grab. It's just like putting speed traps up like the one we had in East Lansing writing people tickets in a 25 that should have posted 35," said Senator Rick Jones a republican from Grand Ledge.

To put in perspective the idea of traffic intersections and safety it's important to note in 2012 there were 273,891 crashes in Michigan. Of those accidents 972 occurred in an intersection because the driver disregarded a traffic signal. That is less than one-half of one percent of all accidents in the state.

Jones doesn't see it as a partisan issue, he thinks it will garner bipartisan opposition.

"I don't think we need computerized cops out there writing tickets," said Jones.

Representative Cochran disagrees, he says if you break the law, you should pay, and municipalities need all the money they can get.

"We see continued cuts to revenue sharing to local governments, this is just one more opportunity, one more means for local communities to generate revenue to support their police departments," said Cochran.

So how many people actually run red-lights? More than would like to admit. We set up a camera at the intersection of Cedar Street and Edgewood Boulevard to find out.

During the half hour we were there we caught at least three people running a red light. That would have been $390 in tickets from one light at one intersection.

The money collected for the tickets would first go to pay the installment and operation costs of the photo enforced red lights. After that 50 percent of the money would go to the state's general fund. The other 50 percent would go to the local government's general fund, with the idea it would be used to improve law enforcement operations and not just replace existing money.

The bill does face several legal challenges. In Michigan it is against the law to use cameras to enforce speeding or running red lights. Additionally, running a red light is considered a criminal violation, and not a civil offense--which is how the bill current is written.

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