Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Red-light cameras have sprouted up like weeds all over this nation. They are installed on the pretense of increasing traffic safety by reducing intersection collisions. In fact though, their real purpose is to enrich city treasuries. And indeed, they are cash-cows for cities and for the private companies that install and operate those devices.
In Houston, there is a proposition on this November’s ballot to do away with the red-light cameras, the result of a petition that was submitted with thousands of signatures. American Traffic Solutions, the company that installed the cameras and shares handsomely in the fines collected, has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of placing the proposition on the ballot.
Ann McCormick is a Houston resident who received a red-light camera ticket. She tried to challenge the ticket. Drivers in other cities who receive one of these red-light camera tickets will probably suffer the same ugly consequences and experience the same run-around should they choose to challenge the tickets on grounds similar to those expressed by Ms. McCormick.
After reading a Houston Chronicle editorial supporting the red-light cameras, Ms. McCormick sent a letter to the Chronicle in which she described the frustrations she experienced and the consequences she suffered trying to fight an unforgiving system. Here is her letter as published in Sunday’s Chronicle:
Your editorial "Vote for safety" (Page B13, Sept. 5), saying there is due process for citizens who receive red-light camera tickets, is not true. I received a ticket and, after some investigation, discovered that the intersection in question does not meet Texas Department of Transportation standards of traffic engineering, nor does it meet yellow-light timing as mandated in the regulation which authorized the cameras.
Additionally, the timing of the yellow light had been reduced sometime between 2008 and the time when I received my ticket. I documented this information and submitted it, as instructed, to the appropriate address. After several months of aggravation, the responses I received included a hold on my vehicle registration and multiple calls from a debt collector that the city of Houston has hired to collect fines.
So, for my trouble, the city has damaged my credit rating by sending an invalid debt to collections and put me in danger of breaking a law by being unable to register my vehicle. This is not due process.
I called the telephone number on my citation and inquired why they were hounding me after I did everything as specified to contest the citation. I was referred to at least three different people. Each claimed they never received my mailed correspondence. However, I had sent it by mail with delivery confirmation. I have that delivery confirmation and still the city denies having received it. They gave me a fax number to resubmit it.
I hate to say it, but the city wore me down, so I just paid the $75.
My point is: There is no due process for red-light camera tickets.
Ann McCormick, Houston

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