After an all-day hearing Monday on a bill that would allow cities to install traffic enforcement cameras at stop lights, the co-chairman of the Transportation Committee gave the bill “no better than 50/50” chances of passing this year.
Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said he didn’t think red light camera legislation is more likely to pass this year than it has been in previous attempts.
Like last year’s bill, the current legislation would give municipalities with populations of more than 48,000 people the option of installing the cameras to photograph the license plates of vehicles running red lights. The towns would then be able to issue tickets to the owners of those cars. The bill would not force any towns to install the cameras.
Following a public hearing on the bill Monday in the Transportation Committee, Maynard said it faced as much, if not stronger, opposition than in the past.
“My gut instinct is that the proponents of the bill are not getting past, I think, the hurdles that are being put in place by the opponents of the bill,” he said. “My gut tells me it’s probably got at least as much trouble this year as it has in the past.”
Though Maynard said he was personally ambivalent to the legislation, he said he saw its merits. He said he would like to see city intersections safer, but said he also had concerns about an uptick in car accidents as drivers react to the presence of the cameras.
Groups like the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union entered testimony Monday in opposition to the legislation. Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, said traffic camera ticketing disproportionately falls on poor and minority drivers.
ACLU Connecticut Executive Director Andrew Schneider said the law would benefit the camera vendors and not make the public any safer. He suggested the committee should look to the experiences of other states with traffic camera statutes.
However, Rep. Angel Arce, D-Hartford, asked the committee to pass the bill. Arce’s father was paralyzed in a hit-and-run accident on Park Street in Hartford in 2008. The driver was only identified months later by someone who reported him to police. Arce said police would have been able to identify the perpetrator sooner if there were cameras at nearby intersections.
Arce said he understood the opposition to the bill but hoped proponents and critics could come up with a compromise.
“I just hope there is some kind of way that we can work together, just for the safety of our citizens,” he said.
During Monday’s hearing, Maynard’s co-chairman, Rep. Antonio Guerrera, asked some of the people who testified whether they would be open to establishing a task force to study the issue.
Maynard said he wasn’t opposed to the idea since the bill seems to resurface every year. Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, has been a proponent of the bill in the past and was scheduled to testify on the bill Monday, but did not make the hearing.
“A number of our urban legislators have been significant proponents of it so you hate to turn a deaf ear to their concerns,” Maynard said. “Probably for this year, [a study] would be a positive thing.”
Last year, the public hearing on the bill centered on exactly how the cameras would be deployed and whether municipalities were seeking them as a revenue stream.
Unlike last year, there were no press conferences sponsored by safety groups partially funded by the company that installs the camera to discuss their benefits.