Our Birmingham traffic ticket defense attorneys were encouraged by the recent news that an Alabama house panel has rejected a plan that would have allowed cities in Jefferson County to erect red light cameras.
Birmingham traffic tickets practically grow on trees. Across the country, more than 100,000 people get a traffic ticket every single day. That breaks down to about 1 in every 6 drivers every year.
So you’re chances of getting a Birmingham traffic ticket are pretty solid to begin with.
What Senate Bill 545 would have done was allow any city in Jefferson County to set up automated red light cameras. A number of other states have them, and you may be familiar with them even if you’ve never come across them. For those who may be unaware, they are cameras that are affixed to intersections throughout a geographic area that record activity at that intersection. The cameras have built-in sensors to detect when a light has changed from yellow to red. If a vehicle proceeds through the intersection after that, the camera will take a picture of his or her license plate and then mail them a traffic ticket. No police officer, no stop. In fact, a person may not even know they’ve been ticketed until they receive a letter in the mail.
There are a number of legal issues that have arisen in other states as a result of using these cameras.
In Florida, for example, it is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to defend the citations in court, as many people were fighting them. In order for the citation to stick, police officers have to show that the car did not enter the intersection before the traffic light turned red. But tickets were being tossed because police didn’t have certified copies of vehicle registrations or because city officials couldn’t show that the people who were reviewing the tapes to catch violators were even qualified to do so. And then cases in which the drivers were accused of turning right on red without stopping proved nearly impossible to prosecute.
So it’s a relief that the same legal nightmare isn’t coming to Jefferson County – at least not anytime soon. Similar bills that would have impacted Vestavia Hills and Irondale were also struck down.
This halted earlier efforts by the state senate, which passed the measures last week. Previously, Center Point and Midfield were approved for red light camera use.
Those who voted in favor of the cameras said they would likely lead to fewer accidents. However, Sen. Scott Beason, a Republican from Gardendale, noted that red-light cameras actually increase the risk of rear-end collisions.
Others who voted against the measures said that some city governments would likely only see the cameras as a revenue stream. And as we’ve seen demonstrated in Florida, that can backfire – big time.
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