Wash. Legislature’s Red-light Camera Law Will Improve Traffic Safety, PCI Says

April 29, 2005

Washington cities may soon begin installing red light cameras at their key intersections as a result of legislation recently enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

PCI was the only insurance organization to join traffic safety and law enforcement officials and go on record during the 2005 legislative session in favor of the red light camera bill (SB 5060). Previous legislatures had granted authority on a limited basis for the use of cameras to catch motorists running red lights, but SB 5060 is the first measure allowing all Washington communities to install and use the cameras — and to keep revenue from the fines.

“While communities across the nation have learned that red light cameras are effective tools to slow speeds at intersections, reduce the incidence of motorists running red lights and improve traffic and pedestrian safety, even cities in Washington that have tried red light cameras haven’t kept them due to concern about funding,” said Kenton Brine, Olympia-based PCI Regional Manager. “Giving a green light to red light cameras – and ensuring that communities would be able to recoup their investment in the equipment – will improve safety at an increasing number of community intersections statewide.”

SB 5060, sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island), allows the use of automated traffic safety cameras by local governments under specific conditions: cameras may only be used at two-arterial intersections, railroad crossings and in school zones; camera locations must be marked by clearly visible signs, photos must be of the rear of the vehicle and license plate only, infraction notices must be mailed to the vehicle owner within 14 days of the infraction and infractions may not be made part of the registered owner’s driving record. The vehicle’s registered owner is responsible for the infraction unless he or she states under oath the vehicle was not under his or her care or control at the time of the infraction. And because the law allows infractions to be processed in the same manner as parking tickets, local governments will keep all the revenue generated by fines.

“Highway safety experts say 800 people are killed and 200,000 are injured by motorists running red lights in the U.S. each year, and the incidence of fatal crashes has risen nearly 20 percent in recent years,” Brine said. “Experience in cities that have tried red light cameras shows us that they work to reduce the average speed of traffic moving through intersections and reduce the number of crashes. Hopefully, more Washington communities will now invest in this effective public safety tool.”

The measure passed the Senate 30-19 on March 14 and won a 61-33 vote in the House on April 15. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed SB 5060 into law on April 22. It takes effect July 24.

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