Ohio lawmaker calls traffic cameras 'cash grabs,' introduces bills to ban them in small towns

NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - State lawmakers are taking a new look at a topic that's made headlines for years: traffic cameras.

Representative Thomas Patton introduced a package of bills Tuesday he hopes do away with a program he claims is only out to generate cash.

Tracking cars on Interstate 77 is one way police officers in Newburgh Heights enforce posted speeds.

"Speed is the number one cause of fatalities on the roadways and it is our job to provide public safety," said Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins.

Elkins said more than 120,000 cars travel through his community daily. He said Newburgh Heights doesn't have the manpower to manage speeds, so the village depends on cameras to clock drivers.

"There's no gotchas here, this is pure speed enforcement," Mayor Elkins said.

But, that's not the way Patton, of Strongsville, sees it.

"If they're speeding, they definitely need to get a ticket right then and there. If it turns out they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, then they need to be arrested, but you can't do that with a camera," Patton said.

He calls the cameras cash grabs and said they don't help with safety. Tuesday he introduced a package of bills that would get rid of cameras in small towns.

Rep. Patton said the proposed package of bills would:

  • Ban traffic cameras in small communities with less than 200 people.
  • Ban traffic cameras in jurisdictions that don't have their own fire or EMT services.
  • Make it so a city cannot issue more than two tickets per driver.
  • Keep a city from collecting more than 30 percent of its total yearly revenue from traffic camera tickets.

In Newburgh Heights, there are two standing traffic cameras and one mobile traffic camera officers use. In order for drivers to get a ticket, they have to be doing at least 10 over the posted speed limit in Newburgh Heights and an officer has to be monitoring the camera.

Elkins said they issue about 600 tickets every month.

"The only mechanism to get people to slow down is to get in their pocketbook," he said.

Each ticket costs drivers about $150, which Elkins said is the same rate as a traditional speeding ticket. He admits the revenue helps fund projects, but promises the number one focus of traffic cameras is to keep people safe.

"We just clocked a guy on the interstate using a speed camera during 102 mph. If we would've pulled out with a police officer and tried to chase that guy down, everybody involved the area's life is at risk," Elkins said.

This is the second time Patton has introduced these bills. The package was introduced in 2016, but it didn't pass in time.

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