New Ohio Senate Bill seeks to severely limit the use of traffic cameras
On May 20, 2014, Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, introduced Senate Bill 342 (S.B. 342), which is another attempt by the State legislature to severely restrict red-light and speed cameras - defined in the bill as “traffic law photo-monitoring devices.” The Ohio House voted almost one year ago on a bill that would ban municipalities from using red-light or speed cameras except for limited use in school zones. However, there was concern regarding the bill’s potential violation of constitutionally-protect home rule authority, leading Sen. Seitz to craft this alternative bill.
Overall, S.B. 342 establishes procedures by which local authorities may deploy red-light or speed cameras and issue tickets for traffic violations detected by those devices. Notably, the bill would require a law enforcement officer to be present at the location of any traffic law photo-monitoring devices at all times during the operation of the device. Local authorities would be prohibited from issuing a traffic ticket if a law enforcement officer is not present.
The bill also imposes signage requirements for all traffic law photo-monitoring devices. Local authorities must erect signs within 300 feet of each fixed device location; traffic tickets based on evidence produced by a traffic law photo-monitoring device at a fixed location will generally be invalid if a sign is not yet erected. Additionally, mobile traffic law photo-monitoring devices must be conspicuously marked in a trailer or vehicle.
The bill imposes further procedural requirements for deploying new traffic law photo-monitoring devices. The bill would require local authorities to take all of the following actions prior to deploying a new device:
- Conduct a safety study of each location that is being considered for a traffic law photo-monitoring device;
- Conduct a public information campaign;
- Publish notice of the intent to utilize a traffic law photo-monitoring device, the locations at which the devices will be utilized, and the date on which the devices will become operational;
- Refrain from imposing fines for violations detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device for at least 30 days after deployment of the devices and send warning notices instead.
In addition to these requirements, the bill specifies options that must be available to a person who receives a ticket, outlines criteria by which a local authority must follow to establish an administrative hearing process, and imposes certain maintenance requirements for the traffic law photo-monitoring devices.
If passed, these restrictions and requirements would have a significant monetary effect on local authorities that wish to utilize these devices. Many believe this bill is a creative way to effectively ban these devices.