Tennessee City Motorists File $6M Suit Over Traffic Cameras

October 17, 2011

Tennessee Motorists are suing Bluff City for $6 million over its traffic cameras.

Chris Cawood and Jonathan Proffitt claim the city and Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc. are conspiring to violate the federal Fair Debt Collections Act, state law and city ordinances, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The suit seeks class action status and accuses defendants of affixing an illegal $40 administrative fee to traffic camera fines and threatening criminal prosecution and driver’s license suspension if the money is not paid.

It also alleges the city created a speed trap near the cameras.

Bluff City already had begun remedying that problem before the suit was filed.

City officials have said they believed their program was grandfathered and they did not have to immediately comply with a state law that took effect in July. One provision of that law made it illegal to place a traffic camera less than a mile from a 10-mph speed limit drop.

One of Bluff City’s cameras was within a mile of a drop from 55 mph to 45 mph.

The city last month shut down the camera and began tallying refunds. Records showed that more than 1,300 tickets had been issued since the law changed and 640 had already been paid.

The lawsuit accuses Bluff City of dropping the speed on the highway without performing an engineering and traffic study to assess the need for that reduction, as required by law.

Bluff City and American Traffic Solutions have until Oct. 27 to file a response. Neither Paul Frye, who represents Bluff City, nor Crews Townsend, who represents American Traffic, responded to requests for comment by the newspaper.

The city also is refunding about $12,000 from traffic camera collections after a Bluff City Police Department reserve officer was allowed to review and approve hundreds of tickets.

The new state law requires potential violations captured on camera to be reviewed and approved by an officer who is certified under the state’s Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.

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