Red Bank City Council May Dump Cameras

Drivers in Red Bank may be about to breathe a sigh of relief; the town is just one meeting away from getting rid of its much unloved red light cameras. The controversial cameras, which have been labeled as cash-grabbing machines by the general public since their introduction, have fast been losing support from Red Bank’s officials as they apparently put visitors off coming to the city.

Red Bank’s Mayor Milliard said that motorists were choosing to stay away from the city, which has become well-known for its red-light camera installations, for fear of being unfairly ticketed at red lights. Many residents and visitors alike had previously complained to the city council that they were being fined by the over-zealous machines when making honest mistakes or misjudgments driving through traffic signal systems at interchanges. As a result, visitors have said they’d sooner bypass the city of Red Bank, rather than visit it as they did not want to be fined.

“Hurting the city”

Mayor Monty Milliard, who also voted against a 12-year contract extension with American Traffic Solutions in 2010, said that he wanted people to visit Red Bank, not avoid it. "I have had over 100 conversations with residents and business owners, all who say that the cameras are hurting the city.”

Therefore, the Mayor has called for an official vote to cancel Red Bank’s red-light camera contract at the next meeting of the city’s commissioners on September 4. The Mayor has, however, warned the public that, if the vote to remove the cameras is passed, the earliest they can be taken down is the first day of next year. The city authorities would also need to give contractors 90 days notice.

Safety features or cash-grabbers?

It has been seven years since the unpopular red-light cameras were installed into three intersections on Dayton Boulevard (Morrison Springs Road, Signal Mountain Road and Ashland Terrace), the main road serving the city of Red Bank. The cameras, which are owned and run by American Traffic Solutions, were initially intended to act as a safety feature. It was claimed that many drivers were jumping red lights and, as a result, were causing road traffic accidents. The cameras capture photographic evidence of any driver passing through a red light and then issue a fine. However, many drivers have since complained that the cameras are overzealous, often issuing fines unfairly. Cash-strapped motorists have accused the city’s authorities of using them as cash cows, unjustly penalizing them in order to increase revenue.

Milliard, who has been vehemently opposed to the cameras since their 2005 installation, has also confirmed that revenue from fines being issued due to driving infractions has fallen significantly. This is due to a new law passed in 2011 by the Tennessee General Assembly that won’t allow issuing of a ticket for failing to come to a complete stop at a traffic signal before initiating a right turn. Also, a large proportion of the revenue generated from fines is handed over to American Traffic Solutions each month; in 2008-9, Red Bank made just over $579,000 from tickets but handed over around half of that to the Arizona-based company.

Outcome unclear

Whether or not the vote to remove the cameras will be successful or not is unclear. Two commissioners that have long been in favor of the cameras, Floy Pierce and Ruth Jeno, will both be voting. The pair both voted to extend the red light camera contract back in 2010, but could the passing of the new legislation have swayed their opinion?

Removal will be welcome

One thing is for sure, the general public will be echoing Mayor Milliard’s sentiment on the cameras. At a time when the cost of driving is at an all-time high, many people argue that red light cameras raise that cost even higher. Particularly vulnerable are young drivers, who already have higher insurance premiums to cover. Not only are they faced with extortionate fines to pay, but this could also then impact on their driving records, making young drivers insurance harder to obtain. It is clear that a vote next week to remove the city’s cameras will be a welcome piece of news for Red Bank’s drivers.