JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate approved an amendment Monday to an omnibus transportation bill that would ban the use of red light cameras throughout the state.
The amendment was passed 23-8 in a roll call vote. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, was absent from the vote. Also not present were Sens. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Gary Nodler, R-Joplin,* who also have had red-light cameras in their districts.
Schaefer said had he been present for the vote, he would have supported the ban. He said there is "room for manipulation" by municipalities, who can employ tactics such as shortening the duration of yellow lights to increase the rate of violators captured on camera.
But, Schaefer said, he "doesn't have any reason" for believing Columbia is taking part in such manipulation.
Sen. Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, was the only senator to speak in opposition to the bill before the vote. She said red-light cameras, which are used in her district, helplocal governments raise revenue and can help to cut back on accidents caused by drivers who run red lights.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis,* who proposed the amendment, said he agreed that the cameras help cities raise revenue, but said the cameras have raised "constitutional questions" where they have been installed.
The city of Columbia currently has five red-light cameras in operation. The city installed two cameras last year at the intersections of Broadway and Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard and Worley Street, which became operational in August. It has since added a camera to the intersection of Stadium and Providence Road, and two cameras at the intersection of Stadium and Forum boulevards.
“I don’t think they solve the problem, but they do at certain intersections,” Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said. “I also don’t see why there is a need to ban, and that it should be a community decision for their city; people should be able to decide what they want for their own city.”
Red-light cameras have caused controversy in some Missouri cities. Last year, a federal court ruled against the recipient of a traffic ticket as the result of a red-light camera in the city of Arnold, rejecting claims that the cameras violate drivers' rights.
But in another case, in March, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the city of Springfield in a case involving a ticket issued from evidence gathered by a red-light camera in the city, and the city has since suspended its use of the cameras.
“I think they’re controversial,” Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said. “There are statistics for why they’re useful and can provide details for collisions seen that give positive results from it. They are good for deductions in collisions and injury accidents. If state decides to get rid of them, then we will do that.”
The bill would also place a complete ban on texting while driving for Missourians of all ages, reduce the number of license plates issued to drivers by the state to one, limit the amount of money a city can collect from fees on traffic violations and end the requirement for drivers to have their cars inspected every two years.
The Senate version of the transportation bill goes to a financial accountability committee, where it would have to be approved before a final vote in the Senate.
Missourian reporter Ashley Reinsch contributed to this report.