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Courts and Crime

Ohio Sen. Seitz's bill would allow traffic cams, but with a huge caveat
Every red-light camera would have to be accompanied by a cop

Karen Kasler
Sen. Bill Seitz is making another run at a bill Gov. Taft vetoed in 2006.
Courtesy of State of Ohio
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Months after a ban on traffic cameras passed in the Ohio House, it's stalled in the Senate. But Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports on a new measure that would allow those cameras but only if a law enforcement officer is posted with each one.

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The new bill would ban cities from using traffic cameras unless law enforcement officers are posted with those cameras to witness the violations, and it would set up a process by which drivers could appeal their citations to municipal court. Its sponsor is Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, a longtime critic of red light and speed cameras. He says this bill is quite different from a bill that passed the House last fall, which he says was an outright ban on traffic cameras. 

“Under the Home Rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution, it is at least arguable that the state does not have the power simply to command cities not to do things. We can, however, provide a uniform statewide method of operation, and that then binds the cities as well as everybody else.”

A defacto ban
But the group that lobbies on behalf of Ohio’s cities says in practical terms, the bill is basically a ban on traffic cameras. Sue Cave is the executive director of the Ohio Municipal League. 

“I think that it’s a not-so-veiled effort to prevent cities from using photo-enforcement of traffic laws, because that really adds an enormous cost to the city to have stationed at every camera location – which is I think what they’re trying to get at – a uniformed police officer.”

Cave says the cameras help the cities enforce the traffic laws that the legislature has passed, which make intersections safer. Seitz says he isn’t surprised at the Municipal League’s reaction to his bill, saying that he simply doesn’t believe that claim of safety. 

A safety question
“If you believe their argument that these photo-monitoring devices have reduced accidents and promoted safety, then my question is, ‘Why is it that no photo-monitoring device has ever been removed?’ They only keep adding more.”

Cave says the cameras do make money, but they also save cities money on enforcing traffic laws while still ensuing other laws are also followed. 

“If you had to station a police officer at every intersection where there have been a lot of accidents all the time, you would have to dramatically increase your force, because you also have to go out and patrol for the other crimes that are taking place.”

Seitz’ bill is almost exactly the same bill that he sponsored in 2006, which passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Bob Taft on his way out of office. Seitz says Taft has told him he now believes that veto was a mistake.

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