State lawmaker proposes bills to limit traffic cameras

CLEVELAND -- A state lawmaker has introduced four new bills to place more limits on traffic cameras across Ohio. The proposed laws mainly target small communities where he believes the cameras are used strictly to make money.

"It's always been my contention that speed cameras are not about public safety, it's simply a cash grab," said State Representative Tom Patton, a Republican representing Ohio’s 7th District.

Patton, from Strongsville has introduced four bills in the Ohio Legislature that would place limits on traffic cameras in municipalities state-wide. They would mainly target small communities like the Village of Linndale, which has a population of 173.

The first bill would prohibit a city that does not operate a fire department or EMS organization from using traffic cams.

"If you're relying on Cleveland for their EMS and Cleveland for their fire, but you still want to write tickets through your cameras, you're really truly not in the business of public safety," said Patton.

The second bill would prohibit cameras in towns with 200 people or less.

The third would prohibit the total number of tickets issued from exceeding two times the population.

The fourth would limit revenue from citations to 30-percent of the town's annual revenue.

"We'll try to see if one of these four bills, any of the four, two of the four, three, I mean would be appropriate," Patton said.

"I think it's a money grab too, I hate those cameras down there," said a driver.

"I think the policemen should be out issuing the tickets, not a camera," said another driver.

In a statement, the mayor of Newburgh Heights, which also uses speed cameras said:

“I respect Representative Patton’s position, however disagree with this latest effort to infringe on municipal home rule. This is pretty settled law at this point as the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions now regarding the legality of photo enforcement, and Newburgh Heights fully complies with the court’s rulings and state law as do the other half dozen communities in Cuyahoga County using photo enforcement.

The real disagreement here is about whether or not motorists should be able to violate the speed limit with virtual impunity. Speeding has become so endemic that police departments must augment traditional enforcement methods to help maintain safe conditions. In fact, the safety of officers and motorists are often put at risk attempting to use traditional speed control methods because of high speed pursuits and distracted drivers during stops.

It is a fair, objective measurement that does not come with bias. Motorists need to be more attentive to their speed and for the driver that gets hit with the one-time mistake, due process is ensured with the ability to plead your case to a hearing officer and ultimately a municipal judge if desired.

I’m hoping the legislature will come to understand the real problem here is not photo enforcement, but that drivers no longer feel like the speed limit is a law they must follow and join us in strengthening the ability of municipalities to utilize modern technology. On the contrary, ignoring that reality only puts more people at risk. The most important point of this debate is, if a driver is not excessively violating the speed limit, they don’t need to worry about paying a photo citation.”

"If it's really about safety, getting the ticket in the mail 30 days after the fact, what has it taught you, what did it prevent you from doing, how did it protect me and you, the other drivers on the highway?...it doesn't," said Patton.

Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins adds that the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled on the legality of speed cameras and that his city is complying with the law. Representative Patton says there are new justices on the state Supreme Court, which means their opinions on traffic cameras could be different in the future.

Continuing coverage, here.

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