Mar 15, 2007
Voters could OK traffic camera’s use
Bill would let residents of cities decide red-light monitoring issue

By Dana Beyerle
Montgomery Bureau Chief
MONTGOMERY | The sponsor of a red-light camera bill said Wednesday he wants voters to determine whether the cameras should be installed in their cities to catch drivers who ignore the traffic signals.

Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, said Wednesday that he plans to amend his legislation to let voters decide whether cameras can be installed at intersections.

Offending motorists would be ticketed.

Grimes’ red-light camera bill and a companion bill were to have been considered by the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, but Grimes pulled them from consideration in order to amend the bill.

“It will be up to voters in a city to vote whether they want to use them," said Grimes, who has tried for several years to pass legislation authorizing cities to install red-light cameras.

Grimes’ companion bill would authorize police officers to charge someone with a traffic violation, such as running a red light, without the officer actually having viewed the infraction.

Safety advocates say traffic tickets based on photographic evidence of red-light running can slash the number of crashes in which a motorist runs a red light and hits a vehicle that has the right of way.

Critics say red-light cameras are simply revenue generators for cities.

Grimes’ proposed amendment would shift the dynamics of the red-light camera issue from the Legislature to municipalities and may make the bill more palatable to House committee members.

Officials in Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa have shown interest in the bill to help them determine their own red-light traffic enforcement. Montgomery’s City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the use of intersection cameras, but Tuscaloosa officials believe a state law is needed before the cameras can be used.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he wants to review changes Grimes makes to his bill.

“However, I support letting the people decide on whether to give the City Council the authority to use this technology as a measure to reduce the number wrecks, injuries and fatalities as a result of red light running," he wrote in an e-mail.

Northport Mayor Harvey Fretwell couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Grimes said he wants the Public Safety Committee to consider his amendment on Wednesday. He’ll then learn whether the amendment is enough to salvage the legislation, which has not been favorably received in committee.

House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, said he has problems with Grimes’ red-light bill because it shifts the burden of proof from the government to motorists, who would then have to prove their innocence.

“If it still has that, I’ll be opposed to it," he said before Grimes announced his proposed changes.

Reach Dana Beyerle at