Hawaii legislature approves bill for new red-light enforcement system
Hawaii counties could be authorized to establish three-year programs to test out a new system for ticketing people who run red lights
HONOLULU — Hawaii counties would be authorized to establish three-year programs to test out a new photo enforcement system for ticketing people who run red lights under a bill that won preliminary approval last week from the House Transportation Committee.
The bill would require that the money from the fines collected under the photo enforcement program be spent in the county where the tickets were issued.
The measure was opposed by the Hawaii Office of the Public Defender but supported by Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, the Honolulu Police Department, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Hawaii and the state Department of Transportation.
“Drivers of motor vehicles violating Hawaii’s traffic laws have become intolerable, especially those that disregard red light traffic-control signals,” according to written testimony from the state DOT. “These violations not only endanger the lives of motorists and pedestrians, but they compound the hazardous conditions that already exist on the roads.”
Lawmakers created a committee last year to develop policy recommendations for the new system, but not all of those recommendations were included in the bill that lawmakers are considering.
AAA Hawaii in particular urged lawmakers to adopt the red-light committee’s suggestion that lawmakers prohibit any link between the number of citations issued by the new systems and the financial compensation for the private vendors who install and operate them.
In other words, the committee wanted to ensure there is no “fee per citation,” but that requirement was not included in HB 1676, according to AAA Hawaii, which had a representative on the red-light committee.
The committee also proposed that lawmakers include in the bill a comprehensive public information and education campaign about the introduction of the new systems. That was supposed to include a “grace period” when the cameras are first installed. During the grace period, drivers photographed running red lights would get warnings instead of tickets, but that provision was not included in the bill.
The Hawaii Bicycling League, meanwhile, urged lawmakers to adopt the system used by 20 other states that photograph the vehicle that runs a red light, and hold the registered owner responsible for the violation.
Instead, the Hawaii proposal in HB 1676 envisions a system that would require a photograph of the driver as evidence of who is responsible for running the red light, an approach the league said has been taken by only three other states.
The Bicycle League proposed that the committee adopt the language in which incorporates more of the recommendations of the red-light committee. However, the state public defender opposed the bill outright.
“Although we believe that strict enforcement of our traffic laws results in a reduction of traffic accidents and increased traffic safety, we do not believe this measure appropriately balances the rights of the accused violators with the public’s interest in traffic safety,” the public defender said in written testimony.
The committee approved HB 1676 on Friday with technical amendments. The measure now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.