NASHVILLE - The Senate Transportation Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) to provide statewide guidelines to govern the use of unmanned traffic cameras.
The proposal comes after much legislative debate on the matter during the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions.
The use of automated systems for surveillance of intersections and roadways is growing as more communities across the state are utilizing the devices.
Opponents of the cameras have argued that the motivation behind the cameras is money instead of safety, while those who favor the cameras claim that the devices have made streets safer by reducing the number of crashes.
“The purpose of this bill is to give uniform standards across the state,” said Senator Tracy. “We have worked on this proposal for several years and have put together a very comprehensive bill.”
Senate Bill 1684, as amended, includes statewide provisions that:
• Invalidate traffic camera citations issued for failure to make a complete stop before making a right hand turn at a red signal unless clearly marked signs are posted saying “No Turn on Red.”
• Clarify that advance signage to inform drivers is required of at least 500 feet, but not more than 1000 feet, before the enforcement area of the unmanned traffic enforcement camera.
• Require an independent traffic engineering study before any new camera can be set up to assure that the proposed camera meets certain criteria to ensure that the purpose is to improve traffic safety.
• Prohibit speed trap cameras by banning the use of traffic enforcement cameras on any highway within one mile of a reduction of speed limits of 10 mph or greater.
• Provide that no more than one citation shall be issued for each offense committed.
• Vehicle registration information must be consistent with the evidence recorded by the enforcement camera or the citation is invalid.
• Mandate that notice of violations be mailed to the alleged offender within 20 days and that all responses and payments be made to a Tennessee address.
• Set the fine at $50 if the violator elects not to contest and provides that citation notices must list any additional late fees or court costs separately in the event they should decide to go to court and are found guilty.
• Amend current law to allow only POST certified or state-commissioned law enforcement officers to view evidence from a traffic enforcement camera and issue the citation. Present law only requires an "employee" of the law enforcement agency.
“My goal is to protect the public from abuse of these camera systems by providing clear guidelines to ensure that the focus is on public safety,” Tracy said. “I am very pleased with the bill’s progress and believe the chances of passage are excellent.”
The bill would not affect current unmanned traffic enforcement contracts in place. If passed, the law would become effective July 1.