AUSTIN (KXAN) — In less than a week after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state’s red light camera ban, 57 of 61 cities have ended their red light camera programs. The ban comes two years after a KXAN investigation found nearly every city with a red light camera program had illegally issued traffic tickets.
Those cameras netted cities more than $500 million since 2007.
The city of Austin was one of those cities without the required engineering study, which was supposed to be performed before a single ticket was issued. The city ended its decade-old automated enforcement system Tuesday. The city has collected more than $7 million in fines since the cameras went up in 2009.
The city issued this statement Tuesday: “The City has directed our vendor to cease red light camera enforcement. Any traffic ticket photos taken after June 1, 2019 shall be null and void,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email Tuesday.
On Saturday, Gov. Abbott signed a bill into law that bans red light cameras statewide. Despite the Sept. 1, 2019 effective date spelled out in the bill, since the bill passed the House and the Senate with 2/3 majority approval, the law takes effect when the governor signs the bill.
The ban included an exception for just a few cities. The exception, known as a grandfather clause, would allow cities with current contracts to finish those contracts before turning their cameras off for good. Most of the contracts cities had with the private camera companies included an “adverse legislation” provision, allowing cities to terminate the camera contracts if a ban law passed.
|No Longer Operating||Still Operating|
|Austin||Leon Valley (Bexar County)|
|North Richland Hills|
A 2017 KXAN investigation found the city of Austin and nearly 50 other Texas cities with these camera systems installed them and collected fines without following the state law that allows cities to operate these cameras.
The law required cities perform an engineering study before issuing any tickets. One city, Abilene, performed an engineering study and decided the study showed the cameras would not have helped reduce their intersection crashes.
Abilene never installed cameras there.
Opponents of the red light cameras argued for years the real reason cities wanted the cameras was to make money off them. Law enforcement in those cities argued the cameras offered safety improvements.
The Austin Police Department made that same argument, but our investigation showed the city never took the step needed to actually punish drivers for not paying the $75 fine.
The former red light camera law allowed cities to punish drivers who failed to pay the fines by allowing cities to withhold vehicle registration renewals under what’s known as the Scofflaw. Since 2009, the city’s never had a contract with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to enforce the Scofflaw, meaning the city of Austin has never had a way to punish people who didn’t pay these fines.
23 Texas cities with active TxDMV red light camera Scofflaw contracts
A KXAN investigation found only 23 Texas cities have that authority now. Other than the Scofflaw, cities have essentially no enforcement function for a driver failing to pay a red light camera fine.
The city has not given a date when the red light camera vendor will take the cameras down from the nine intersections. Since the cameras and equipment is owned by a private camera company, that company is responsible for removing the equipment from the nine intersections in the city.