Rep seeks to restrict use of traffic cameras in Ohio | News, Sports, Jobs
An Ohio House member who has proposed legislation to restrict the use of traffic cameras over the years has introduced several new bills on their use.
“Traffic cameras have proven to be a nuisance to the public, providing no increase in public safety,” said state Rep. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville. “Although I understand their purpose in principle, I have yet to see it in practice.”
Girard Mayor James Melfi, whose city uses speed cameras, said Patton’s proposals “don’t bother me. We have already seen and heard proposals. Our job is to protect citizens and pedestrians and to generate revenue. If this law is passed, we will follow it.
Of Patton’s seven new bills, four were introduced in the last legislative session but were not returned from committee.
These four would prohibit:
• A community that does not have a fire department or emergency medical services organization to use photo traffic cameras.
• A community of less than 200 residents to use the devices.
• A community issuing a total number of traffic citations using devices annually that exceeds twice its population.
• A community derives more than 30% of its total annual revenue from issuing quotes from devices.
Patton’s new proposals:
• Prohibit the installation of traffic cameras within half a mile of a freeway entrance.
• Prohibit a community located in a county with a population of at least 1 million from using traffic cameras on interstate highways. Only Franklin and Cuyahoga counties have populations of this size.
• Require that 80 percent of all revenue from traffic camera citations be used for law enforcement expenses.
Melfi said the 80% proposal would impact Girard because about 40% of the money raised through speed camera citations goes to the police department.
The rest, he says, is used for street improvements like paving and the purchase a few years ago of a street sweeper as well as for recreation.
“We’re trying to slow traffic and create revenue, which is a problem for some,” Melfi said. “Slower speeds make the roads safer.”
Even if all of Patton’s bills are accepted, Melfi said the city will continue to use speed cameras.
“These bills provide reasonable solutions to our ever growing problem of misuse of local authorities,” Patton said.
Patton said the county’s population-related proposal is because Linndale, a community near Cleveland with about 100 residents, derives about 95% of its overall revenue from issuing fines, licenses and permits. generated by quotes from traffic cameras.
Lawyer Marc Dann, who represents a group of people who got Girard speeding citations in a class action lawsuit, said the cameras are a “sinkhole for corruption”.
Dann, a former state attorney general, said he co-sponsored legislation to change traffic camera laws during his time in the state Senate from 2003 to 2006.
The cameras are “a drain on money for communities that are more concerned with money than traffic control,” Dann said.
More than 7,700 people driving on a section of Interstate 80 in Girard were cited and charged for speeding for about a month as cameras were set for a 55 mph construction zone when construction was completed on 7 December 2017, and the regular 65 mph limit was in effect. A sign was left on the road stating the speed limit was 55 mph.
Judge Andrew Logan of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas agreed to a settlement with Blue Line Solutions, the traffic camera company, in December 2021. Logan also absolved the city of financial blame.
Dann appealed to the 11th District Court of Appeals seeking damages from the city.
“It’s literally highway robbery,” Dann said.
He added: ‘You fight more crime when you stop people for speeding than you do using the cameras. Stopping people not only discourages speeding, but you have the possibility of having drug dealers who are on I-80 or people with a back seat full of AK-47s. You are giving up something by not doing traffic checks.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court heard a case from Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland, both in Cuyahoga County, saying a state law approved in 2019 regarding cameras traffic was unconstitutional.
This law required such cases to be heard in municipal or county courts rather than administrative hearings and reduced a community’s Local Government Fund payment by the amount it received in traffic camera citations.
The Cleveland 8th District Court of Appeals ruled that the reduction of the Local Government Fund along with an early deposit requirement for filing fees and court costs violated the home rule. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Wednesday that New Miami in Butler County did not have to reimburse $3 million to motorists who received speed camera tickets.
The village had collected about $3 million over a 20-month period, starting in July 2012, from speed cameras of people driving at least 11 mph over the limit. Those involved in this class action claim that the camera program is unconstitutional.
The court decided to leave an October 2020 12th District Court of Appeals decision in favor of the village.