Bill on Photo Red Light Imaging Advances

February 17, 2020, 8:43 AM HST · Updated February 17, 8:43 AM
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Graphic by Wendy Osher / Maui Now.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to approve HB1676 HD1 that seeks to establish a photo red light imaging pilot program. The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

HB1676 HD1 seeks to establish a three-year photo red light imaging detector system pilot program. The bill authorizes any impacted county to administer the photo red light imaging detector system pilot program. It also establishes a pilot program account as a special account within the general fund.

The bill requires proceeds of fines to be expended in the county from which they were collected for operation of the photo red light imaging system program. If passed, pilot program would sunset on June 30, 2023.

The committee found that the prevalence of motorists who violate Hawaiʻi’s traffic laws, particularly those who fail to stop at red lights, has greatly increased. “These violations endanger the lives of motorists, pedestrians, and other highway users and compound the already hazardous conditions on Hawaiʻi’s roads and highways,” according to bill advocates.

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How Red Light Imaging Detectors Work:

According to the bill: “No traffic stop is involved, and a police officer is not at risk from passing traffic or armed violators.  Photo red light imaging detector systems use cameras positioned at intersections where red light violations are a major cause of collisions, serving as a twenty-four-hour deterrent to red light violations.  Sensors are buried under a crosswalk and lead to a self-contained camera system mounted on a nearby structure.  When a vehicle enters the intersection against a red light, the camera takes a telephoto color picture of the rear of the car, capturing an image of the license plate.  A second wide-angle photograph records the entire intersection, including other traffic.”

Benefits Include Safety, Cost Savings, Less Challenges:

The bill provides a list of potential benefits:  “Not only are streets safer, but police officers, freed from the time-consuming duties of traffic enforcement, have more time to respond to priority calls.  A violator is less likely to go to court because the color photograph of the violation, imprinted with the time, date, and location of the violation, and the number of seconds the light had been red before the violator entered the intersection, can be used as evidence in court.  Few cases are contested using this system, and officers make fewer court appearances, thus saving costs.”

History of Opposition Explained: 

The bill outlines previous efforts and obstacles in getting similar programs enacted in the past: “While the legislature established photo speed imaging detector and photo red light imaging detector systems to improve traffic safety and enforcement through the passage of Act 234, Session Laws of Hawaii 1998, implementation of these systems as traffic enforcement tools in January 2002 generated intense public opposition.  As a result of this opposition, the legislature repealed Act 234 in its entirety by Act 58, Session Laws of Hawaii 2002.  However, opposition to these programs was directed primarily toward the photo speed imaging detector system and the method by which that program was implemented.  The public perceived that the program was operated to maximize revenue for the vendor running the program rather than to improve traffic safety.”

Bill Backers: System is in Best Interest of Public Safety

Lawmakers say the photo red light imaging detector is in the best interest of public safety: “Though many of the concerns raised regarding photo speed imaging detector systems were and continue to be valid, the use of photo red light imaging detector systems appears to be a more acceptable method of traffic enforcement, as a motorist’s disregard of a steady red traffic signal is evident.  The legislature finds that establishing a photo red light imaging detector systems pilot program will serve as a useful traffic enforcement tool and is in the best interest of public safety on Hawaiʻi’s roadways.”

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