AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — When Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1631 on June 2, the law effectively banned red light cameras across the state, but according to the City of Amarillo, they will continue to operate here.
Because of an amendment to the bill, cities with red light camera contracts signed before May 7 of this year have the option to keep their contract and continue operating the cameras, and that is the case in Amarillo.
The city has a contract with American Traffic Solutions until 2022. Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said breaking the contract would cost nearly half a million dollars, and they do not plan to terminate the contract immediately.
“That doesn’t mean that the city wants to continue to operate, but since they did say that you can continue to operate, therefore it is not illegal,” Miller said. “Because our contract requires the Legislature or Congress to make red light cameras illegal for us to get out for cause, because of that amendment, we cannot just cancel the contract without penalties.”
Miller said he encourages people to continue paying their violations.
“This is a law that’s there and continues to be there as far as we can interpret by interpreting the legislation through legislative action. And then also through council action to create the ordinance that initiated the program, so I would never recommend someone not pay it,” said Miller.
Ryan Brown, a partner at Blackburn & Brown, LLP, said he thinks drivers should fight the violations.
“If they take that to court, do you think a jury is going to like that the government is paying to pursue these little penny-enny tickets when the government, the state government, has said that they’re illegal? And the state government is in a better position to judge this because they’re not getting revenue from these red light cameras,” said Brown.
However, according to information provided by the City of Amarillo, the State of Texas Comptroller receives about 26% of citation revenue as compared to the City’s 30%. American Traffic Solutions receives 44%.
Miller told us the city council will revisit the idea of terminating its red light camera contract closer to its expiration date as it will cost less money. He said red light cameras, while unpopular among Amarillo drivers, keep our intersections safer.
Statistics on collision decreases from the City are available here.
“The program has been a success for the citizens of Amarillo and keeping them safe and helping individuals who may run a red light to be more cautious when they’re approaching red lights knowing that signal may turn,” said Raymond Lee, City of Amarillo Director of Public works.
However, Brown disagrees with the City’s claims.
“These red light cameras create an incentive to shorten red light intervals, which create more accidents, in most cases in these intersections,” Brown added. “So, I think it’s a good thing that Texas stopped this and I think it’s really stupid that the City of Amarillo is not stopping this.”
Until the Amarillo City Council gives the City Manager the go-ahead to cancel its existing red light camera contract–or it expires–whichever comes first, drivers can expect to see them operating around town.
It is important to note red light camera violations are a civil matter, not criminal cases, and they do not affect your driving record.
Correction: This article has been amended to more accurately reflect where citation revenue goes once collected.