By Quinn Casteel, Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Red light cameras will remain legal in Virginia for at least another year, as the House Transportation Committee defeated a bill this past week that would have forced the discontinuation of such photo-monitoring systems.
The committee voted 13-8 against House Bill 973, sponsored by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R–Amherst, which would have repealed local authority to operate the systems known as “photo red” or “red-light cameras.”
Virginia police from several localities attended this past week’s meeting to lobby in favor of keeping the cameras, citing safety as the number one concern. Localities that have implemented the systems have reported decreases in red-light violations as high as 33 percent and 40 percent.
Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, D–Springfield, and committee chair Delegate Tom Rust, R–Herndon, were among the House members voting against the bill.
“My main reason for voting against it: safety,” Rust said. “A lot of people were saying it saves lives and stops crashes.”
Filler-Corn, a fellow Fairfax County delegate, echoed Rust’s opinion.
“In Fairfax County we don’t have red-light cameras,” Filler-Corn said, “but I do feel strongly that we need to retain the option and flexibility because I do believe it (cameras) saves lives.”
Among those opposing the monitoring systems and voting for the bill was Delegate Timothy Hugo, R–Centreville, who questions the localities’ motivation.
“You’ve seen what they’ve done in D.C. – they shorten the lights to basically increase the revenue,” Hugo said. “I’m very hopeful — right here in the House — we’ve passed a bill to set a standard for the yellow light.”
House Bill 116, sponsored by Delegate Joseph Morrissey, D–Richmond, would tighten regulations on the photo systems in regards to the timing of yellow lights and how law enforcement uses the cameras to monitor right turn lanes.
“What you don’t want to see is these lights being used as a revenue builder,” Hugo said.
Virginia Beach is home to the state’s longest-running photo-monitoring program. The city reported it netted $3.3 million on 12 cameras from 2009 to 2012. Fairfax City has made $500,000 in profit on just three cameras since 2011 and has plans to add three more, according to a report by WTOP-FM.
Other localities with red-light-camera monitoring include Richmond, Albemarle County, Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake, Petersburg, Charlottesville, Blacksburg and Arlington.