Ohio Supreme Court to hear Springfield red light camera law challenge


Ohio Supreme Court to hear Springfield red light camera law challenge

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about red-light cameras, including changes to state law, the city’s legal challenge and crash rates at intersections with the devices.

By the numbers

$3.4 million: Collected from citations during life of the red-light camera program.

77,000: Citations issued by the Springfield red light camera program since it started in 2006.

17: Red light cameras at 10 intersections.

The Ohio Supreme Court will consider Springfield’s challenge to red light camera laws, weighing city leaders’ argument that the new regulations violate their local authority.

The city of Springfield and several other cities sued after state lawmakers approved new regulations requiring police officers to be present at intersections with red light cameras in order to issue tickets.

“Our issue is that it’s a local decision to be made as to whether they are effective safety tools in each community,” Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas said.

Springfield’s argument against the law was rejected by a Clark County judge last year and the city lost an appeal in March. The city then appealed to the supreme court earlier this year.

The entry signed by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on Wednesday says the supreme court will consider the case on two points:

• Whether a municipal ordinance that establishes an automated system for civil enforcement of statewide traffic laws is a valid exercise of self-government under the Ohio Constitution.

• Whether cities must comply with a state statute that has the principal purpose and effect of limiting municipal authority.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office will be prepared to respond, spokesman Dan Tierney said.

“We’re defending the laws passed by the state of Ohio but we’ll respond in kind in court on this pending litigation,” Tierney said.

There’s no typical timetable for when the case will be heard, Strozdas said.

The Dayton case has similar issues with the law, but they’re different than Springfield, Strozdas said. Springfield’s case won’t be heard until after the Dayton is case is decided, he said.

Other cities and organizations have filed briefs supporting Springfield’s position, including Toledo and Dayton, as well as the Ohio Municipal League. It’s possible a joint presentation could be made, Strozdas said.

“It’s all up to the judges of the court,” he said.

The red light cameras in Springfield were shut off last year after the new regulations went into effect. The city had issued about 77,000 citations as part of the program between 2006 and 2015, collecting about $3.4 million in fines.

Under the new law, the city estimated it would have to hire at least 42 officers to run its 17 cameras at 10 intersections.

“We’re pleased that the court thought our case was worthy of its time and attention,” Strozdas said. “We look forward to presenting it to them when that time comes.”

Since the cameras have been shut off, traffic data shows crashes haven’t increased at those intersections. Crashes at the 10 intersections with cameras were cut in half during the life of the city’s program — from 90 crashes in 2007 to 44 in 2014. In the 13 months since they were turned off, 45 crashes occurred through April 30.

Red-light cameras have long divided Springfield residents.

The devices are no longer needed, Springfield resident Lisa Ratliff said on Thursday.

“It’s just a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” Ratliff said.

The red light cameras improve safety and eliminate the need for a police officer at each intersection, Springfield resident John McCombs said Thursday. He’d like to see them turned back on.

“You’ve got a lot of people who run red lights and kill people,” McCombs said. “You don’t need a cop at every light. That’s what started the whole thing.”

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