New Red Light Camera Traffic Law Causing Confusion
by Heather Graf
GALLATIN, Tenn. - A new state law could very soon have red light camera citations come screeching to a halt. The legislation that took effect July 1 said the cameras can't be used to ticket a driver who fails to come to a complete stop when turning right on red.
In the city of Gallatin, the law has created some confusion.
"The intent of the bill was discussed repeatedly as not affecting agencies that have current contracts, so in other words we'd be grandfathered in," said Sgt. Bill Storment with the Gallatin Police Dept. "We were good to go as far as we knew, to continue enforcement as we had been."
Because the city did not think the new law applied to its red light cameras, 906 right turn citations were mailed out during the month of July.
"August 1st, I received notification from our city attorney that we're not to be processing these right turn violations," said Storment.
He said the city immediately stopped issuing those citations, and began working to track down those drivers who had already paid the $50 fine.
"They said I don't have to worry about it, it's taken care of," said Jules Pomeroy, one of many drivers now due a refund. "It's an extra $50 I can spend at my store. I'm excited about it."
Storment said the city wasn't intentionally trying to violate the law. Instead, he believes the mix-up stems from a change in the language of the legislation.
"I would find it hard to believe that we were the only agency that interpreted the information the same way," he said. "Somewhere along the line, the language about being grandfathered in was left out of the bill."
He's also concerned about how the nearly $45,000 in lost revenue will be received by American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that maintains the city's cameras.
"I just hope the vendor won't decide it's not worth their while to keep the cameras in," he said.
Drivers, on the other hand, said they won't miss the cameras at all.
"There should be an officer there. Let's take the technology and computers out of the situation for a minute and let's put someone there that can use common sense and good judgement when writing a citation," one driver told NewsChannel 5.
Storment said the department's officers will continue to do just that.
"The law for stopping hasn't changed," he said. "And if a police officer sees you making that right on red without stopping, he can still stop and write you a ticket."
Clarksville, Murfreesboro, and Mt. Juliet are also currently using red light traffic cameras.
In Clarksville, police officers said they made changes to their system so that they'd be in compliance when the new law took effect.
In Murfreesboro, the red light cameras are only used to ticket drivers caught turning right on red at intersections that are clearly marked with "No Turn On Red" signs.
The Tennessee Attorney General has already weighed in on the issue. In an August 8th opinion, he upheld the constitutionality of the new law, and said it in no way impairs the contracts that exist between cities and traffic camera enforcement companies.