Va. Panel Kills Bills to Keep Cameras at Intersections
RICHMOND,VA — Bills that would have allowed some Virginia communities to keep red-light cameras at intersections died in a House of Delegates committee on Nov. 15, jeopardizing the state´s decade-long experiment with the technology, according to the Washington Post newspaper.
The patrons of the measures that would have allowed the devices beyond their July 1, 2005, expiration date decided to let their bills from this year´s legislative session expire in the face of continued opposition in the militia, police and Public Safety Committee. That panel has rejected efforts to extend or expand the use of the cameras for several years.
The devices, which automatically snap photos of vehicles when they run red lights, are favored by many law-enforcement officials for safety reasons, but they have raised concerns among some legislators because privacy advocates say the cameras are intrusive and unfair.
Over the past several legislative sessions, supporters from urban areas have run up against lawmakers from such less-congested rural areas as Southside and Southwest Virginia, who say the cameras are an invasion of motorists´ privacy.
Even those who support the use of cameras said it would be tough for the legislation to pass through the House committee in the 2005 session, and they wondered which members might be willing to change their minds.
Red-light cameras are allowed in six Northern Virginia localities: Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church and Vienna, as well as Arlington and Fairfax counties. Virginia is one of 14 states that allow them in some capacity, as does the District of Columbia. But unlike the Old Dominion, the District and Maryland have embraced the technology as an efficient way to reduce accidents and congestion, despite some complaints in both jurisdictions over how the cameras are used and who benefits from them.
More than 70 percent of motorists in AAA´s Virginia surveys support use of the cameras. But many opponents say there are alternatives that are just as effective, such as extending the length of yellow lights and placing unmanned police cars at intersections to slow motorists.