Nearly 1,700 motorists have been cited for speeding in Bluff City, Tenn., since new traffic cameras were installed in December.
They are accused of speeding through a 1.3-mile stretch of U.S. 11E that is a 45 mph zone.
The citations went out during the first six weeks after the cameras began operating. Although the cameras went online in December, citations were not issued until Jan. 1.
As the city sets out to collect the $150,000 worth of fines and court costs those citations could yield, those caught on camera will get a letter in the mail from an Arizona-based company. It details the ticket and gives them a Web address where they can pay the $90 fine, along with an 800 number for questions.
“If people would observe the speed limit then we wouldn’t have any problems,” Bluff City Police Chief David Nelson told the Bristol Herald Courier. He says the cameras are about safety and claims a decrease in accidents on 11E as a result.
The cameras have drawn interest from more than just those being ticketed. During the same six-week period when the citations were issued, almost a dozen state legislators have sponsored bills in the Tennessee General Assembly designed to do away with the devices or severely limit their use.
“This is clearly not the will of the people,” Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said regarding the use of speed and red light cameras for traffic enforcement.
The Volunteer State’s first traffic enforcement cameras went up in 2006, when the city of Gallatin signed up with American Traffic Solutions Inc., the Scottsdale, Ariz., company behind Bluff City’s speed cameras. The cameras were used to monitor traffic at two of that city’s red light intersections.
Gallatin installed a third red light camera in February 2007 and a fourth in October of that year.
In 2007, the Middle Tennessee city’s four cameras issued 19,630 citations to those running red lights, according to Police Department reports.
As a result, Gallatin had a 19 percent decrease in the number ofâ€¨its intersection-related side impact crashes andâ€¨intersection-related crashes with injury.
Picking up on this success, the General Assembly passed a law in 2008 that codified traffic citations “based solely upon evidence obtained by a surveillance camera.”
The 2008 law made traffic enforcement camera citations a nonmoving violation like driving an unregistered vehicle or one with expired tags.
Penalties assigned to nonmoving violations do not show up on a person’s driving record and are not reported to a person’s insurance company. They also are civil rather than criminal violations, by state law.
The 2008 law also set up a series of basic rules that cities using traffic cameras must follow, including one exempting emergency vehicles and another requiring localities to put up signs at least 500 feet in front of the devices to warn motorists of their presence.
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