Columbia city council puts a stop to red light cameras

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council voted Monday night, 6-1, against the proposal to re-install red light cameras.

Ward Four Council Member Ian Thomas made a motion to re-establish the cameras. 

Thomas said, "National data show that red light cameras are an effective tool to dramatically reduce death and serious injury at intersections, and I was disappointed the council voted against them last night."

The decision comes after the Missouri Supreme Court previously said red light cameras in Columbia were constitutional. 

However, Ward Five Council Member Laura Nauser said the lights are not effective.

"Originally it was the car owner, and if the person driving was not the owner, then somebody would have to prove it was not them," Nauser said.

Columbia first had red light cameras installed in September 2009 before removing them in November 2013. According to a city report, red light accident calls fell by 28 percent during this time.

"The information that was in the report shows accidents are continuing to go down even after we removed the red light cameras. So, it was very difficult for anyone to make a compelling argument that we need these red light cameras to address accidents," Nauser said.

Some people living in Columbia said they agreed with the city council's decision.

"It's probably a smart decision not to implement them at this point just because there's not enough evidence that really shows they are effective," Logan Gray said. "Maybe it does actually make people more cautious because they don't want to get the fine, but fines need to be increase, and that will ultimately keep people from running those red lights."

The cameras were able to take a picture of the driver and license plate at the intersection. Then, the city would mail a ticket of $120 to the owner of the vehicle. During the time the cameras were in effect, the city issued about 6,000 tickets and raised $447,379. According to the city, about half of that money went to camera maintenance.

Nauser said the cost raised concerns.

"Certainly there have been other communities that have abused that power. It gives everybody a black eye." Nauser said. 

Although Thomas said red light cameras would be the best way to stop people from running red lights, Nauser said using more signs, making sure roads are well-marked and increasing fines are a better method.