Opposition cited increase in traffic safety

BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, the state legislature deferred SB 75, which would have prohibited local municipalities from using electronic vehicle speed enforcement systems to regulate traffic laws.

SB 75, introduced by Sen. Danny Martiny (R – Metairie), stalled on the floor of the Senate Committee on Local and Municipal Affairs, although that does not rule out its return later in the session.

The most vocal opponents have been local government leaders, including Tom Ed McHugh, chief of the Louisiana Municipal Association, who stated that speed cameras are, “a tool in the tool box for law enforcement [to improve] traffic safety.”

Sen. Martiny’s argument that current speed cameras violate due process rights of those being ticketed was not enough to sway the committee.

“I’m not out to do away with speed cameras. You have just got to make them fair and you can’t make them fair,” Martiny said.

Attorney Joseph McMahon III agrees and states that since traffic camera violations do not fall under the Uniform Motor Vehicle Law of Louisiana, making it an administrative violation, certain constitutional rights are forfeited.

“What the municipalities have done is created civil statutes that take away all of those rights so they can change the playing field in favor of the city.”

Although the opposition did not present a study to corroborate their claim that traffic safety increases as a result of speed cameras, there has been extensive research on how red light cameras increase “all crash types” and “all crash severities.”

Additionally, the New Orleans Annual Operating Budget indicates that the city government has increased its reliance on revenue from red light and speed cameras to cover holes in the operating budget. Revenue from red light cameras, for example, has increased by 419 percent, from $3.4 million in 2008 to a projected $18 million in 2011.

Of the 2011 general fund, red light cameras alone account for 3.6 percent, up from 0.7 percent in 2008. Revenue from all fines is set to comprise 7.5 percent of the general fund.

Another effort against traffic-enforcement cameras, HB 347 – which would rule out red light cameras in the absence of a referendum – is currently being debated in the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial, and Cultural Affairs.


Robert Ross is a researcher and social media strategist with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be contacted at rross@pelicanpolicy.org, and you can follow him on twitter.