Measure would allow photo radar cameras in school and construction zones

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So-called red-light cameras that snap a photo of license plates as a means of ticketing those who blow through traffic lights could soon nab those speeding in school and highway construction zones.

House Bill 1199 would authorize “automated traffic control systems” statewide, though would require police to disclose their presence and would require a higher burden of photographic evidence in order to mail a ticket to vehicle owners.

Red-light ticketing systems have drawn the ire of motorists nationwide, with some cities discontinuing their use. Motorists have challenged tickets mailed long after the alleged offense and those that don’t clearly show who was driving the car.

Lead sponsor William Friend, R-Macy, said he does not support the use of red-light cameras.

“I only support [automated systems] in school zones and construction zones,” and only under certain conditions, he said.

For example, the bill would require that automated ticketing systems be used only when workers or children are present. Signs would have to be posted alerting motorists the system was in use and police would have to first conduct a “public information campaign.”

Besides detecting speed with the use of radar or other measures, the system would have to obtain a clear image of a license plate as well as of the driver. Nor could tickets be mailed if later than six days after the alleged violation, according to the bill.

But even if laden with caveats, such legislation concerns groups such as the Wisconsin-based National Motorists Association. Executive Director Gary Biller said lawmakers tend to find new uses for such systems after initial deployment. They grow fond of the revenue they produce, even if “they put their hand on the Bible and say they won’t use them in other places.

“Once you start taking the money flowing in, it’s hard to stop.”

Biller said such systems emphasize ticket volume. Often, they don’t positively identify who was driving and thus may ticket the car owner rather than the offender. They also don’t take into account potential mitigating circumstances that a police officer can observe.•

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