COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Automated traffic cameras that ding drivers who speed are yet again on the receiving end of Ohio Rep. Tom Patton’s wrath.
The Strongsville Republican, who has taken aim at traffic cameras for years, is set to rally behind a string of bills on Tuesday to crack down on municipalities that employ photo-monitoring devices to enforce traffic. It’s a scheme, he said, that funnels cash to camera-friendly towns – including to a 100-person village in Franklin County – yet does little to protect Ohio’s roadways.
“Traffic cameras have proven to be a nuisance to the public providing zero increase to public safety, and while I understand their purpose in [principle], I have yet to see it in practice,” Patton said in a statement.
Joining the long-standing debate over the use of traffic cameras in Ohio, a package of Patton-sponsored bills designed to further chip away at the cameras’ use will receive its first hearing before state lawmakers Tuesday.
Among the seven bills in Patton’s package, House Bills 547 to 553, four were introduced in the previous legislative session, he said.
- House Bill 547: Municipality that lacks emergency medical services and a fire department cannot use traffic cameras
- House Bill 548: Municipality with a population of 200 or fewer cannot use traffic cameras
- House Bill 549: The total number of traffic camera-based tickets in a year cannot double the municipality’s population
- House Bill 550: The revenue derived from traffic camera-based tickets cannot exceed 30% of a municipality’s total annual revenue
- House Bill 551: 80% of revenue from a traffic camera-based ticket must be used for law enforcement purposes
- House Bill 552: Traffic cameras cannot be placed within a half-mile of an interstate highway entrance
- House Bill 553: A municipality, within a county whose population is 1 million or more, cannot use traffic cameras to enforce violations on interstate highways
At the heart of Patton’s legislation is Linndale Village, whose 150-member population is surrounded by the city of Cleveland. In 2017, Patton said nearly 95% of the village’s cash flow came from traffic-camera tickets.
“This is clearly an unjust use and abuse of municipal local authority,” Patton said.
If lawmakers approve Patton’s legislative package, Linndale Village’s traffic camera days could be over, as it does not have a fire department or ambulance service and is home to fewer than 200 people, according to NBC4’s sister station Fox 8.
Two other Cuyahoga County municipalities known for their use of traffic cameras, Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland, however, argued before the Ohio Supreme Court in February 2021 that a law designed to restrict the traffic-enforcing tech violated local governments’ “home rule” authorities.
According to Fox 8, Newburgh Heights issued more than 59,000 traffic camera-based tickets in 2021 – nearly 30 times the village’s population. That disparity alone could kibosh the municipality’s traffic camera program if Patton’s House Bill 549 makes its way through the General Assembly.
But in their suit, Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland city officials said a 2019 law allowing state funds to be deducted from municipalities that use traffic cameras encroached on their ability to self-govern.
“Particularly during the pandemic, and as the state’s governments continue to grapple with its effects, it is the municipalities of the state that are best positioned to use their home rule authority to identify the safest ways to police their streets,” said the Ohio Municipal League in an amicus brief supporting the municipalities’ case.
Dayton, which also filed a brief in support of Newburgh Heights and East Cleveland, touted a 45% decrease in red light violation-related crashes at intersections where cameras were installed.
The Ohio Supreme Court, however, was not convinced by the municipalities’ arguments. In May this year, the court upheld the state’s ability to off-set the amount of money a municipality services from traffic camera-tickets.
Franklin County is not immune to lawsuits involving traffic cameras. In 2019 and 2020, the Village of Brice in southeast Columbus generated about 80% of its total general fund from traffic-camera tickets.
From 2015 to 2020, that revenue amounted to $2.3 million for the 100-person village, according to an audit conducted by Ohio Auditor Keith Faber in March this year.
“This tiny village is a speed trap reliant on automated speeding citations to pay the bills,” Faber said. “There’s no other reason for it to exist.”
Patton’s legislative package will be considered by the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee at 11 a.m.