Understanding Substitute HB 1279

SHB 1279

Section 1:

Requires yellow light times at intersections with Automated Ticketing Cameras comply with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

MUTCD yellow light times are the “minimum” amount of time required to stop. Establishing “minimum” as a standard fails to validate the claims that photo-enforcement programs are for safety.

Substitute HB 1279 originally contained a provision to to use the MUTCD yellow light time + 1 second but was removed via an amendment with no explanation, demonstrating the incredible power and influence that camera vendor lobbyists have in Olympia.

This provision appears to standardize light times but in reality only standardizes light times at intersections with Automated Ticketing Cameras, causing greater dilemma about when to stop and ensuring rear-end collision will remain needlessly high.

Despite the addition of this provision, there is no mechanism for enforcement and it will likely be ignored to the same extent that current regulations for Automated Ticketing Cameras are regularly ignored.

Tells jurisdictions what they shall do with the results of engineering studies.

This provision does not require municipalities to solicit an engineering study. An engineering study is the only way to understand why some intersections have more red light violations than others and if the violations are involuntary due to low dilemma-zone protection or otherwise poor intersection design.

Sadly, to evade complying with this provision, municipalities may choose to avoid engineering studies altogether.

Section 2:

Instructs the “local legislative authority” to prepare an “analysis” of the locations within the jurisdiction where automated traffic safety cameras are proposed to be located.

Without parameters addressing what constitutes an acceptable analysis, this provision allows municipalities to conduct whatever kind of analysis they see fit to start taxation by citation. It’s possible that a coin toss might pass as a legal analysis under this provision.

As Rep. Hurst says “red light cameras are like crack cocaine for cities!” Instead of addressing this problem this bill adds a provision that is much like asking a crack addict to determine if he needs more crack. The results will be predictable.

Cities & Municipalities are required to “post an annual report of the number of traffic accidents that occurred at each location…as well as the number of infractions issued.”

Why does this provision exclude accident data from before the installation of cameras? How can a determination about the effectiveness of a camera location be made if half of the data is excluded?

A common tactic used to mask the ineffectiveness of traffic cameras is to exclude rear-end accident data from the total number of accidents that occur at an intersection. Without language requiring the inclusion of accident data from outside of the “intersection”, that is clearly a result of the “intersection”, the information submitted to citizens will continue to be faulty, misleading and contradictory.

Allows cameras at intersections of “two or more” arterials.

Currently the use of cameras is restricted to “two” arterial intersections. The new provision was likely added to provide legal protection to the municipalities that have collected Millions of dollars ignoring the existing law designed to protect citizens from predatory enforcement.

This is an unjustified expansion of photo-enforcement to the most confusing 5 and 6 way intersections. The confusion over free-right turns and short yellow lights is fully exploited to maximize profits from unsuspecting citizens.

Establishes a loose criteria for the issuance of right-on-red infractions.

The officer who reviews the footage is prevented from seeing all of the evidence necessary to determine if the criteria have been met. The officer is only allowed to see the evidence that has been prepared by the traffic camera vendor who has a clear desire to maximize profits.
The criteria are vague and the officer’s paycheck is dependent on meeting the criteria through the funds collected by the photo-enforcement program.

Addresses school zone signs and times when speed cameras can be used.

School zone speed cameras are among the most widely abused photo-enforcement technologies. Signs and times can be very confusing. Flashing lights, city ordinances and signs that display enforcement times often conflict, leaving motorists confounded as to what the speed limit is. This provision does little to reduce confusion, the leading cause of school zone speeding.

This provision states that school zone signs must be approved but does not say by whom or address concerns by citizens that regularly complain about poor sign visibility.

School zone safety is serious business, our most precious gifts of life travel to and from school daily. Providing a jurisdiction with a financial incentive to maintain a high level of speeders is outrageous.

Speed cameras cannot prevent speeding, they can only issue tickets to unsuspecting drivers. Speed bumps and other traffic calming devices are necessary to ensure safety is the priority not profit.

Requires that “signs placed in automated traffic safety camera locations after the effective date of this act must follow the specifications in the MUTCD.”

This provision allows the continued use of all existing, substandard signage, despite the effects on safety or the community impact.

Requires that funds (above costs) collected through the use of automated ticketing cameras be allocated to either; traffic calming, traffic enforcement or traffic and pedestrian safety programs.

If safety was the primary goal for the employment of automated ticketing cameras, all revenue collected at a given location would be used to pay for the engineering upgrades needed to make the location safer until the “need” for automated ticketing cameras was eliminated.

When law enforcement agencies can fill their own budget shortfall by issuing more tickets, important checks and balances are destroyed. When police departments profit from traffic enforcement, community trust sinks dramatically and the relationship between citizen and law enforcement is needlessly compromised.

Financial support for law enforcement should be more reliable. Law enforcement officers should not be made to feel like revenue generators or tax collectors. Our law enforcement officers deserve more respect than that.

As more and more law enforcement agencies become dependent on funds from automated ticketing cameras, more and more agencies are sending officers to the state capitol to fight against citizens to maintain or expand the despised programs. Law enforcement officers shouldn’t have to become lobbyists or act as traffic engineers to receive the funding they need.