Safelight, Revisited

As a wise man once said, “You never know what the Texas legislature is going to do”. While the debate continues in Austin over the future of red light cameras in Texas, the city council has not been idle on the subject.

In November of 2017 I authored a study that looked into the effectiveness and legal liabilities around our Red Light Camera program (called ‘Safelight’). Since then, the council has taken a long look at the program and agreed to a series of program reforms. While I’ve argued from the dais that we should eliminate the program entirely for a number of reasons, I am also proud of the effort that council and staff put into this and for the changes that were agreed to. It is my belief that we now have the most stringent program in the state in regards to how the city must conduct itself. These changes will help maximize flexibility for the city to stop citing every ‘technical’ violation of law and instead issue citations only for those actions that pose an inherent threat to public safety. Here’s the summary of changes:

  1. We’ve taken traffic camera duties away from the Plan Commission and will have a dedicated citizen’s advisory board that reviews all SafeLight policies, data, and compliance (should the legislature not outlaw them entirely)
  2. Provided the ability to contest a citation in writing instead of in-person.
  3. You can opt for a trial by a jury of your peers
  4. We are moving to apply the rules written in section 707 of the state traffic code to ourselves even though we ‘may’ be grandfathered in.

Change Proposal (pdf)

We have a list of other technical items for our new board to consider, including:

  • Consider extending our yellow light lengths even more based on positive results in Denton
  • Possibly extending the camera start time to .25 seconds after a red light instead of .1 (current).
  • Reviewing the results of all intersection studies and making design changes
  • Setting rules that allow for flexibility in stop bar location for ‘right on red’ at intersections where visibility is difficult.
  • Annual review of business rules with our vendor
  • Working with crash prediction models and cleaning up our accident reporting to better reflect accident location / red light causation

As always, I remain committed to both public safety and constitutional governance. While I am generally opposed to this program, it is my intent to act in good faith and continue to improve it while it is still in operation.