A state lawmaker whose vehicle was shown speeding by a traffic camera in upper East Tennessee co-sponsored a bill to take that camera down this year, reports The City Paper. Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) was cited for driving 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone while driving in Bluff City in 2010, just weeks before voters elected him to a third election. The photo-enforced traffic cameras did not show images of the driver, and Lundberg said an employee of his public relations firm was driving the company vehicle at the time.
The traffic camera speeding ticket “has absolutely zero effect” on his decision to sponsor the bill, Lundberg told The City Paper. “In fact, until you said that, I completely forgot about that.”
Lundberg was cited after his 1998 Ford F15 was pictured driving 15-miles over the speed limit just after lunchtime on Oct. 21, 2010. The $90 fine was paid. Because the traffic camera images do not include a photo of the driver, the ticket is considered a non-moving infraction.
The stretch of road leading up to the photo-enforced intersection had been a point of controversy a month before Lundberg’s company vehicle sped through the intersection. Local city officials were figuring out when and whether to change speed limits leading up to the site in reaction to a new ban freshly approved by lawmakers that spring to space out speed reductions and photo-enforced cameras.
The cameras are still a sore spot to this day, said Lundberg. He said he receives constant complaints that the traffic cameras are a deterrent for travelers wanting to visit the Bristol Motor Speedway in his district. He said he is also worried about traffic crashes at the site of the cameras.
— Note: The bill, HB314, did not pass.
A federal judge has dismissed a $6 million class action lawsuit filed against Bluff City, its mayor and an Arizona-based traffic camera company regarding tickets issued from two speed-enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E, reports the Kingsport Times-News. Motorists Chris Cawood and Jonathan Kelly Proffitt filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in September 2011 naming Bluff City, Mayor Irene Wells and American Traffic Solutions as the defendants.
The lawsuit claimed Bluff City and ATS conspired to violate the Fair Debt Collections Act, state law and the city’s own ordinances by imposing an administrative fee of $40 on top of the $50 fine imposed for motorists allegedly captured on the city’s two speed-enforcement cameras on Highway 11-E.
Last month, Judge Ronnie Greer granted the motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In his opinion, Greer wrote that conspiracy has to be supported with enough factual allegations … that is plausible on its face.
“The only factual allegation regarding ATS is that ATS installed and maintained the cameras at issue,” Greer wrote, noting this is insufficient to establish a conspiracy.
Two camera enforcement companies have lost a bid to overturn a state law that prohibits fining drivers for improper right turns on red if the only evidence is photographic, reports the News Sentinel. And despite predictions that the law that went into effect last July would cause an increase in wrecks, statistics in Knoxville refute that contention
Knox County Chancellor Michael W. Moyers’ 27-page decision signed May 30 addresses a multitude of arguments brought by American Traffic Solutions, Inc., and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., asking him to declare the law unconstitutional.
ATS, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., provides camera enforcement equipment for 14 intersections in Knoxville. Redflex, based in Phoenix, Ariz., has equipped four intersections in Farragut with photo enforcement devices.
. “The challenged law does not in any way amend or modify the rules regarding making right turns at a red light,” Moyers ruled. “Its only effect is to provide that some other evidence besides the camera footage standing alone is necessary to prosecute a violation for making an illegal right turn at intersections where right turns on red are otherwise allowed.”
…Moyers noted in his opinion that lawmakers concluded use of traffic cameras “to regulate illegal right turns is a measure directed more toward revenue generation than enhancing traffic safety.”
The companies argued lawmakers discussed including an exemption to the new law for photo enforcement contracts already in force. The lawsuit asked the court to find those contracts were exempt from the new law. Moyers shot that argument down.
“The Legislature was free to include such language within the bill; it chose not to,” the chancellor wrote. “The failure to include such language does not render the bill vague or ambiguous.”
Both photo enforcement companies argued the 2011 law, deemed Public Act 425, interfered with existing contracts with Farragut and Knoxville regarding collection of fines for improper right turns on red. That, the companies contended, made the new law unconstitutional.
Moyers, however, ruled in his summary judgment that Public Act 425 “is a constitutional expression of the Legislature’s police powers …”
A bill declaring that cities must conform their contracts with traffic camera companies to follow a state law passed last year, even if the contract was signed before the new law took effect, as approved by the House 86-4 Thursday.
The action comes with lawsuits pending against Knoxville, Farragut and the state by traffic camera operators challenging the 2011 law. The new law prohibited ticketing for right turns on red, a major source of ticket revenue under existing contracts.
Sponsor Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, said HB2933 is intended to declare that “the company is basically going to have to make do with the change” and any resulting loss of revenue.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said he was concerned the bill would send the state “down a slippery slope” toward changing other contracts, but added “maybe it’s not as nefarious as it looks to me.”
“There’s nothing nefarious about this at all,” said Ragan.
Basically, Ragan said, the bill puts into law what state Attorney General Bob Cooper said in a legal opinion declaring the new law does not violate constitutional prohibitions against impairment of contracts.
Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, sponsor of the 2011 law, said that if Ragan’s bill had been part of his proposal, it might have blocked lawsuits against cities by traffic camera companies. The bill will help cities avoid lawsuits, he said.
“Some (traffic camera companies) are reputable. Some are not,” Dean said. “This protects the cities from those that are not reputable.”
The bill is scheduled for a Senate floor vote next week.
Deputy Knoxville Law Director Ron Mills said the bill, if passed, would apparently have no direct impact on the pending lawsuits against Knoxville and Farragut. A hearing on the Knoxville lawsuit, brought by American Traffic Solutions based on a 2009 contract.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Knoxville is being sued by a red light camera vendor in a case that could change the new state law limiting citations for improper right turns on red.
American Traffic Solutions Inc. filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Knox County Chancery Court. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company provided the equipment for the city’s red-light cameras in Knoxville.
A state law that took effect July 1 bars cities with the cameras from issuing right-turn-on-red citations if the only evidence comes from traffic camera video. Sponsors of the measure, which also sets new restrictions on how local governments set up and use speeding cameras, said a camera couldn’t distinguish between truly illegal turns and drivers who nose into the intersection to see if it is safe to turn.
This lawsuit from ATS seeks to overturn the new law or to exempt about 20 cities that had contracts with traffic camera companies when the law took effect.
A state appellate court on Monday reinstated charges against a Knoxville man accused in the shooting of a red-light camera, the News Sentinel reports. In an opinion drafted by Appellate Judge Camille R. McMullen, the state Court of Criminal Appeals concluded Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz was wrong to toss out an indictment for felony vandalism and reckless endangerment filed against Clifford Clark in the November 2007 incident.
It’s not clear, though, whether prosecutors will be able to try Clark. Earlier this year, Leibowitz deemed Clark mentally incompetent to stand trial in an unrelated assault charge after his attorney, Ron Newcomb, argued Clark had suffered a “debilitating medical event” that caused significant memory loss and an inability to communicate.
Newcomb did not offer details, and Leibowitz sealed related medical records. Clark was accused of shooting out a red-light camera that captured him running a red light at the intersection of Interstate 640 and Broadway. Knoxville Police Department officers who were near the intersection when they heard four shots being fired and then saw Clark speeding away stopped him within seconds.
An Upper East Tennessee town’s already troubled traffic camera enforcement program has hit another speed bump — a federal proposed class-action lawsuit, reports the News Sentinel. Attorney Dan Stanley has filed on behalf of motorists Chris Cawood and Jonathan Kelly Proffitt a $6 million proposed class-action lawsuit against Bluff City and its mayor, Irene Wells, and the Arizona-based traffic camera firm American Traffic Solutions Inc. Cawood is a Kingston attorney.
The lawsuit alleges the city and the firm are conspiring to violate the Fair Debt Collections Act, state law and the city’s own ordinances by imposing an administrative fee of $40 on top of the $50 fine imposed for motorists allegedly captured on the city’s two speed enforcement cameras on Highway 11E.
The plaintiffs further allege the city and firm are “threatening criminal prosecution for contempt of court and suspension of driver’s licenses” if the fees and fines aren’t paid. The action also alleges the city created a “speed trap” on the section of Highway 11E under enforcement by the city’s cameras by dropping the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph less than a mile from where the cameras are posted.
Previous post HERE.
A new state law regulating traffic enforcement cameras apparently does not unconstitutionally impair current contracts with camera operators, even though it may reduce their revenue, according to Attorney General Bob Cooper.
Two state legislators said a question had been raised because some contracts were based on “an understanding that a minimum number of traffic citations would be based on right-turn-on-red violations, according to the opinion made public today.
The opinion cautions that no specific contract was provided for evaluation with the questions posed by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, sponsors of the new law now known as Public Chapter 425.
But as a general proposition, the opinion says the new law “should withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
The House and Senate Saturday both approved and sent to the governor legislation that will overhaul the state’s law on traffic cameras.
The bill, SB1684, cleared the Senate unanimously and passed the House 83-3. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration. The governor has voiced no position on the measure, but legislators say he is expected to sign it.
The bill won’t impact traffic cameras already in operation, but will apply to them when contracts for their operation are renewed, according to sponsors Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.
“It doesn’t do all the things that a lot people wanted, but it does do a lot of things that everybody can agree on,” said Dean.
Multiple bills dealing with traffic cameras were proposed this year, ranging from measures that would flatly ban them to proposals that all revenue collected be turned over to education.
Key provisions of the bill that passed, the result of hours of debate in the House and Senate Transportation committees, include:
-A requirement that a traffic study be conducted before a camera is put in place and that the study show it is needed on a public safety basis.
-Prohibiting tickets for turning right on red unless the intersection is clearly posted with a sign stating right turns on red are banned.
-It limits tickets fines to a flat $50 maximum if paid on time with no added handling fees or court costs.
-No speed enforcement cameras can be put up within a mile of a decrease in the speed limit of 10 mph or more.