At one point, cameras were considered the latest and greatest advancement in traffic enforcement. Cameras mounted near busy intersections would be the eyes of police forces that were often stretched too thin.
Traffic cameras, sometimes called red light cameras, could photograph drivers who disobeyed traffic signals, enabling authorities to issue tickets even though no police officer actually saw the infraction.
The motivation behind these cameras may have been noble. The Texas Department of Transportation reported nearly 4,500 traffic deaths in 2021 alone, and intersections are a common location for traffic crashes of all types.
However, in light of recent legislation, Houston drivers need not fear a ticket from a red light camera anymore.
Texas Legislature Bans Use of Red Light Cameras
Not only did red light cameras arguably promote traffic safety, but (perhaps more importantly) they also served as a source of revenue for smaller jurisdictions. By issuing tickets to a larger number of people without having to expand a physical police force, smaller communities could take in more money via red light camera fines.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1631, and the same was signed into law by Governor Abbott shortly thereafter. The law bans local authorities like city councils from installing or operating any red light camera system. In addition, any evidence obtained from such camera systems is inadmissible in Texas courts.
The law does permit municipalities to continue operating their traffic cameras if they were installed and are operating pursuant to a contract entered into before May 1, 2019. The exception allows municipalities to continue operating their red light cameras until the expiration date of the contract.
This exception only applies, however, if the contract did not contain a provision allowing the contract to end if red light cameras were banned in the state.
Places Where Traffic Lights Are Still in Use
As of June 2021, there were only four cities in Texas with active red light cameras: Humble, Amarillo, Balcones Heights, and Leon Valley. In these cities, traffic cameras were left on and continued to operate because turning them off early would have resulted in a financial penalty to the city.
Some of these locations will continue to use red light cameras until 2024 — the date the contract between the municipality and the red light camera vendor expires. These municipalities are permitted to keep the cameras turned on so they don’t violate their contracts.
No Penalties for Violations Caught by Red Light Cameras
Suppose that you were to drive through a city with operational red light cameras, and you committed a violation by not stopping for a red light. You may wonder if you could face consequences, including a fine, for committing an infraction caught on camera.
Thankfully, for Texas drivers, the answer to this question is no. Even where a red light camera remains operational, the municipality is prohibited from taking any sort of civil or criminal action against you. While some of the cities where these cameras remain in use may automatically issue you a ticket, you do not have to pay it.
Traffic Laws Are Still Enforceable
Just because cities are no longer permitted to use red light cameras to take action against offenses does not mean that traffic laws are unenforceable. A police officer in Houston who sees you run a red light can still pull you over and issue a citation that you must pay, regardless of whether the camera caught you or not.
Contact the Houston Car Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help
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