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LWV League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area Education Fund
Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH November 4, 2008 Election
Issue 7
Limits of Photo Monitoring for Traffic Violations
City of Cincinnati

Charter Amendment - Majority Approval Required

Pass: 62,230 / 51.22% Yes votes ...... 59,267 / 48.78% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Information shown below: Summary | Arguments |

Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to limit the use of photo-monitoring devices to detect certain traffic law violations by adopting new Article XIV?

Summary Prepared by League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area:
Explanation: The proposed amendment would add an article to Cincinnati's City Charter which would limit the use of photo-monitoring devices to detect certain traffic law violations unless a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and personally issues the ticket to the alleged violator at the time and location of the violation. If this charter amendment is adopted by the voters, no ordinance contradicting the new Article XIV could be approved by Council. Photo-monitoring devices are cameras used as part of a red light enforcement program. Issue 7 was placed on the ballot by City Council as required by law in response to the collection of a sufficient number of valid signatures on a petition to submit the proposal to the voters.

Background: In a December 2007 motion, City Council directed the administration to design and implement a red light traffic enforcement program to enhance public safety by increasing compliance with traffic control devices and reducing the number of vehicular accidents in the City. The program was predicted to result in a minimum of $1 million dollars in additional revenue. The City administration issued a Request for Proposals, selected a vendor, and recommended approval of an ordinance authorizing the City Manager to enter into contract negotiations to implement a photo red light enforcement program. At the August 2008 Council meeting, the motion to approve the ordinance failed, removing the issue from further Council discussion. In June 2008, a petition to amend the Charter to limit the use of red light cameras was initiated and gathered the required number of signatures to place the issue on the November 2008 ballot. Petition proponents want citizens to make the final decision on a red light camera program by submitting this proposed City Charter Amendment to voters.

For more than a decade, local governments across the country have installed automated photographic equipment at a limited number of intersections with high accident rates to increase compliance with traffic control devices and reduce the number of vehicular traffic accidents. A red light camera program includes a photograph of a vehicle and license plate entering the intersection after the light has turned red, review and processing, mailing a citation, and collecting fine payments. Increased traffic enforcement by the automated system was anticipated to add revenue, while reducing accidents and increasing compliance with traffic control devices.

Studies of red light safety programs are mixed regarding reducing traffic accidents. There is some evidence of reduced right angle collisions and fewer injuries; however, while usually less serious, there were more rear-end crashes. A Federal Highway Administration study concluded the red light cameras provided a modest benefit. The National Motorist Association has recommended traffic engineering measures, e.g., proper signal timing, better signal design and improved intersection design as ways to prevent violations and reduce accidents. With red light programs, drivers tended to change behavior and approach intersections with cameras more cautiously. Fewer motorists ran red lights at these intersections which reduced the number of fines. Right angle collisions, so called "t-bone crashes," are more dangerous and cause more serious injuries than rear end crashes. However, in trying to avoid a ticket, motorists tended to slam on the brakes resulting in more rear end collisions.

Legal questions have been raised regarding red light camera programs. Such programs privatize enforcement of traffic violations which are criminal laws. The registered owner of the vehicle is held liable for a violation regardless of who was driving the car. A California Superior Court judge dismissed tickets issued under a camera program because the evidence was not gathered by an official police agency, and was inadmissible in court.

City Council is elected to make decisions on behalf of the community. Therefore, some argue a red light safety program should be discussed and debated by Council. This process of decision making provides opportunities for citizens to lobby Council and testify about proposed ordinances.

  Official Information

City of Cincinnati website
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Pros and Cons of Proportional Representation and the Red Light Camera Ban (sponsored by AIR, Inc)
Watch video from the Sept 18 event
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Arguments For Issue 7 Arguments Against Issue 7
  • Voters should have the final determination about automated photo-monitoring devices to detect traffic violations and not leave the issue for City Council to legislate.
  • This charter amendment would send a strong message to city leaders that a red light camera program is not wanted in Cincinnati.
  • In discussions about photo-monitoring devices at intersections, key information was not provided: numbers and locations of cameras and a plan for even distribution throughout Cincinnati neighborhoods.
  • The City should not rely on motorists' violating traffic laws as a way to enhance revenue.

  • The Charter should be a clearly stated body of fundamental principles that provide for the flexible operation of government.
  • Arguments for or against a red light safety program should be discussed and debated by Council.
  • A red light safety program should not be limited by Charter amendment because such a program can increase compliance with traffic control systems; can increase enforcement of traffic laws without jeopardizing the safety of officers or disrupting traffic flow; and additional revenue can result from fines from increased traffic enforcement.

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Created: January 24, 2009 10:48 PST
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