NASHVILLE, March 8, 2016—Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) has been fighting off traffic cameras in the state legislature for quite some time. Last year, he managed to pass legislation that outlawed the future use of speed cameras once existing contracts expired and prevented new contracts from being entered. His latest effort will focus on what he calls ”predatory practices” of traffic camera companies and the cities that use them.
“Camera companies and the cities using them claim cameras are about safety. Well, many studies show that traffic cameras don’t actually make our roads safer, but increasing the length of a yellow light does. Therefore, my bill will increase the state mandatory minimum for yellow lights to be extended from 3 seconds to 5 seconds,” said Holt. “We’re already getting pushback on the legislation from special interest groups that are profiting off of the cameras, which I find interesting since they say their only concern is safety and not profit. If this whole thing is about safety, then why do they have a problem with increasing the yellow light time to give people more time to stop and avoid running a red-light?”
Holt says the answer to that question is obvious.
“It’s obvious that they oppose giving people more time to stop because fewer people will run the light, which means less money in their pockets. Studies have shown that cities will purposefully shorten yellow light times in order to generate more traffic camera revenue.”
Holt’s legislation will also focus on informing people of their rights and State law when they receive a citation in the mail. Currently, when someone receive a citation, it comes on city letter-head, but Holt says it’s not actually from the city that issued the citation.
“It’s funny, people get these things in the mail and they come on official city letter-head, but there’s no contact information for the city on the citation. In fact, the only contact information is for an out-of-state company that collects the money,” said Holt. “You can’t even send the city a letter because there’s no address for the city on the citation.”
After receiving a citation, if the individual doesn’t pay it, threatening letters and phone calls start coming, which claim that the individual will have the non-payment reported on their credit score, their license may be at risk and their car insurance rates could be hiked. However, none of that is true. In fact, it’s against state law.
“They even put these letters on letterhead from a law-firm in order to scare people into thinking they may be getting sued. I’ve received countless calls from people all over the state telling me about the threats they are receiving from these companies,” said Holt. “In reality, state law says that non-payment cannot affect your driver’s license, credit score or insurance rates. These predatory practices are shameful. I have 80-year-old grandmothers calling me almost in tears over the possibility of losing their license and not being able to get to their doctor’s appointments.”
Holt’s legislation will require that all citations for camera enforced violations print a disclaimer in large, bold font that informs people of the state law, which says that non-payment of the violation cannot have an effect on their credit score, driver’s license or insurance rates.
“It blows my mind to see how much opposition there is to informing people of their rights and making sure they are educated about the state law so that they cannot be preyed upon,” said Holt. “The opposition is arguing that local revenue will decrease tens of thousands of dollars by simply informing people of the law. So, they are admitting that by lying to and threatening people, they make more money, but if they tell them the truth and inform them of their rights, they will lose tens of thousands of dollars. That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve heard in quite some time.”
Holt’s legislation will be heard in the transportation sub-committee on Wednesday.