Lawmakers debate effectiveness of red light, photo radar cameras

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DENVER – The Colorado Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to consider a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the use of cameras in traffic enforcement.

Police agencies cite videos with crashes occurring after someone runs a red light, demonstrating how dangerous that can be.

But the City of Denver collected $1.5 million dollars last year from the red light cameras, showing just how lucrative the programs can be and critics say they are a cash cow for cities, but do not really impact safety.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, a Weld County Republican, has introduced a bill that would ban the use of red light cameras and photo radar in Colorado, except in toll lanes and work zones.

“The data doesn’t show that red light cameras increase safety,” says Renfroe. “They’re actually just revenue generators.”

Det. Jon White, with the Denver Police Department says the programs are very useful in changing drivers’ behavior and he says that makes the streets safer for everyone.

But critics are skeptical of data that indicates red light cameras reduce accidents.  Renfroe points to studies that conclude increasing the time of the yellow light is what really makes the difference.

Some police agencies are already lining up to protest the bill.

And other organizations say it should be up to cities, not the state.

Renfroe acknowledges it’s an uphill battle, with the bill being heard first in a Democratic dominated committee before going to the Democratic controlled Senate.

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