Missouri Judge Upholds County’s Ban on Red-Light Cameras

Published February 16, 2016

A state Circuit Court judge in Missouri upheld a voter-approved ban on red-light cameras in St. Charles County, rejecting a legal challenge against the ban filed by local lawmakers in December 2014.

In his decision, 11th Judicial Circuit Court Division 7 Judge Daniel Pelikan (Division 7) upheld the red-light camera ban, ruling municipalities did not have “exclusive control” over city traffic enforcement ordinances. The lawmakers argued county ordinances, such as the ban, do not supersede city governments’ power to control local policies, like the use of red-light cameras.

Home Rules

Joseph Miller, a policy analyst with the Show-Me Institute, says Pelikan’s ruling was correct, because Missouri cities’ individual traffic laws can not contradict state or county laws, including laws or ordinances like those in St. Charles County.

“I fail to see how the recent ruling on red-light cameras is a local-control issue,” Miller said. “First, the red-light camera ordinances have been struck down because local enabling ordinances are not congruous with state statutes on moving violations, statutes which no one would dispute the state has a right to create.”

‘Export the Taxation’

Miller says city governments have a history of using red-light cameras and other traffic enforcement devices to pad local budgets.

“Municipalities, especially small ones in north St. Louis County, prefer to use traffic citations to fund government precisely because it allows them to fine nonresidents simply passing through,” Miller said. “In this way, they can export the taxation to other state residents to fund local governments in which they have no say.”

Profits Over Public Safety

Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, says red-light cameras are more about increasing tax revenues, not improving traffic safety.

“Most red-light camera operations seem to be more about revenue than safety,” Feigenbaum said. “While red-light cameras can in certain situations improve safety, most are marketed as a way for cities to gather additional revenue.”

Feigenbaum says red-light cameras do not prevent or discourage dangerous driving.

“The most egregious red-light running violations are not stopped typically by cameras,” Feigenbaum said. “Folks that red-light cameras tend to stop are early-signal violators, … typically a second or less. Since most intersections have a delay between when the light turns red for one direction and when it turns green for the next direction, these type of violators don’t cause [many] accidents. Yet, these early-signal violators tend to make up most of the folks who get tickets.”

Matt Hurley ([email protected]) writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Internet Info:

Dominque Lord and Srinivas Reddy Geedipally, “Safety Effects of the Red-Light Camera Enforcement Program in Chicago, Illinois,” Chicago Tribune: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/safety-effects-red-light-camera-enforcement-program-chicago-illinois/