Safety or revenue? Dragon cams get around OH law to give you ticket

Safety or revenue? Dragon cams get around OH law to give you ticket
Dragon camera (Source: WOIO)
Dragon camera (Source: WOIO)

NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - Dragon cameras are the newest tool in keeping roadways safe, according to some local mayors.  They are simply a new irritation, according to many drivers.

They are hand-held units that get around Ohio law, which says violations captured on cameras have to be witnessed by a police officer.

Since the units are hand held, all the officer has to do it click it and in the mail speeders get a ticket.

They can record speeds dozens of times a minute, which raises the question of whether the cameras are about safety or about generating revenue.

Nowhere is that more true than in Newburgh Heights where rush-hour commuters on Interstate 77 and drivers on Harvard regularly see an officer on the side of the road, on an overpass or an exit ramp using a hand-held Dragon camera.

Mayor Trevor Elkins admits, "There's no denying that traffic cameras generate revenue."

The Village has reaped so much revenue that Elkins moved from part time to full time.  His salary went from $12,000 to $69,000.  That's $31.36 for each of the village's 2,200 residents.  By far, the highest in the county.

He said, "We're gonna generate from the speed cameras about $600,000, which would probably be about 20 percent of our annual budget this year."

The Mayor claims the cameras reduce accidents.  We analyzed 2015 accident records in Newburgh Heights and found there were 25 crashes on I-77, about two a month.  Similar numbers on Harvard where there were 27 crashes.

So are the cameras preventing accidents? It is hard to tell.

On I-77 before the Dragon cam, there were 18 accidents, afterward there were seven.  However, the statistics are likely skewed by the fact that there were several snowstorms in the time before the camera and none after.  Fourteen of the 18 crashes occurred during snowy January, February, and March.

The speeds that will get you a ticket in Newburgh Heights:

  • 14 miles over on I-77
  • 10 miles over in the Village
  • 6 miles over in a school zone

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