Red light cameras ready for action in Houston
Fines to be sent out soon
KTRK By Mark Garay

(2/07/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - You've seen it happen yourself -- a car speeding right through a red light. Now, the person behind the wheel might soon get a ticket in the mail.
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On Monday, the Houston Police Department recommended American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona company, to head up Houston's red light camera program. The plan is to have permanent red light cameras up and running and keeping an eye on you by the end of the month.

For the entire month of December, the red light cameras went through a big test. They were set up at four of Houston's busiest intersections and tested to catch red light runners.

"And we saw some real scary images of two vehicles almost colliding with each other," said Lt. Robret Manzo with the Houston Police Department.

In the 30 days of testing, 633 warning citations were sent out to motorists caught breaking the law. But when the system is finally up and running, copies of the intersection photographs will be mailed out with the citation to violators.

"On average, twenty vehicles a day were running red lights at the four intersections we monitored," said Lt. Manzo.

Department statistics show that three years ago, 5,188 accidents were caused by red light runners and during an earlier two-year period, nearly 1,800 people were killed for the same reason.

Local officials with the ACLU weren't available for comment Tuesday, but they have gone on record as saying the cameras are more about revenue than safety, and that they don't fit well with existing laws.

Critics argue the person driving the car may not be the owner who gets the ticket. They also say camera evidence is only a $75 civil penalty, while red light runners caught by police can get a $200 class C misdemeanor. That, they argue, violates constitutional equal protection.

As the state attorney general wrestles with that issue, local officials hope to have 10 new cameras installed by the end of this month and another 50 by the end of March.

HPD tells us the cameras caught more than 2,800 red light runners during the 30-day test period, but only the most blatant violators received warnings.
(Copyright © 2006, KTRK-TV)