Though some major safety organizations, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have urged greater deployment of red-light and speed cameras, these traffic safety enforcement systems continue to stir controversy. Opponents argue that municipalities have turned to such technology as a means to replenish city coffers and that the stated goal of improving traffic safety is a pretense.
In the face of such contention, some states have adopted laws restricting cities in their use of red-light and speed cameras. Ohio is among them, but the state’s Supreme Court on July 26 ruled that some of those restrictions are unconstitutional because they infringe upon the authority of municipalities.
The case pitted the City of Dayton against the state. Dayton’s lawsuit challenged three provisions of Ohio’s state law regulating the use of red-light and speed cameras. Dayton’s attorneys argued that the provisions violated the state constitution’s protections of home rule power. The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 vote, ruled in favor of Dayton.
One law provision at issue required that a law enforcement officer be present at the location of the traffic camera. Another provision prohibited municipalities from issuing a fine to any driver caught speeding by a traffic camera unless the driver’s speed exceeded the posted speed limit by 6 mph in a school or park zone or 10 mph in other areas. The third provision that Dayton challenged required municipalities to perform a safety study and a public information campaign before ever using a red-light or speed camera.
In the lead opinion, Justice Patrick Fischer wrote that all three provisions infringed on Dayton’s legislative or home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest and were therefore unconstitutional.
The Ohio Supreme Court decision reversed an earlier ruling from the Second District Court of Appeals.
The Ohio law restricting the use of red-light and speed cameras was adopted in 2015. But Dayton’s ordinance permitting its police to institute a red-light camera enforcement program dates back to 2002. In 2010, Dayton enacted an amended ordinance to include the use of traffic cameras for the enforcement of speed limits.
In Dayton’s traffic camera enforcement program, police review still and video images to confirm that a traffic violation has occurred before issuing what’s known as a notice of liability. The vehicle owner has 30 days to appeal.
To download the Ohio Supreme Court decision, click here.