Michigan Senate votes to ban red light cameras

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Senate voted Tuesday to prohibit the use of red light cameras to enforce the state's traffic laws, a move supporters said was meant to be a preventative measure.

A 2007 opinion from then-Attorney General Mike Cox already barred cities from creating ordinances to allow citations based on photographs or video produced by an unmanned traffic monitoring device. At the time, Cox found such systems conflicted with the state's vehicle code.

But state Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, sponsor of the new proposal, said a legislative follow-up was needed to solidify Cox's opinion. Her proposal passed the Republican-controlled Senate in a 28-10 vote.

In this Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 file photo, a sign warns motorists of the presence of a red light camera in Chicago.

"You have a right to confront your accuser," Theis said. "You have a right to a presumption of innocence before a determination of guilt. All of that isn’t happening with these cameras. But they are making an awful lot of money and they’re causing accidents."

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., allow red light cameras, Theis said previously.

Her bill, which now goes to the state House for consideration, specifically bars "photographic traffic signal enforcement systems," which feature a camera and a vehicle sensor and are capable of producing recorded images of license plates.

A separate and competing proposal has been introduced in the state House to allow automated speed enforcement systems in work zones. So far, that bill hasn't gained the approval of the House.

Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said it's unlikely he would take up the House bill if it made it to his panel. Barrett said he has concerns about creating greater risk to public safety by installing cameras and drivers braking suddenly when they notice them.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition has opposed the Theis bill in the Senate. The state is experiencing increases in fatal road crashes, the coalition said.

"This is not the time to take proven safety countermeasures off the table," the organization's executive director, Todd Scott, wrote in a letter on March 9.

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cmauger@detroitnews.com