KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – Traffic officers in Keller said that they depend on radar, video and laser technology for accuracy when they have to pull over drivers. “I would want somebody to do that for me, to have exact data. And it’s a tool, it works in conjunction with what we do,” said officer Bethany Todd.
“We’re making face-to-face contact with drivers,” said Stephen Grossman, a Keller traffic officer.
Many folks like it that way. “I think the officer has to pull you over and explain [the citation],” said Connie Metzler.
In fact, this is even one of the arguments against red light cameras. The Texas Senate just passed a bill out of the Senate Transportation Committee that would ban the cameras, making the case that they violate the constitutional rights of an individual to talk to the person who witnesses the violation.
But, on Wednesday, Republican Texas Sen. Van Taylor introduced an amendment that exempts the camera technology that is used by law enforcement from the ban. It was approved unanimously.
Byron Schirmbeck, a red light camera opponent, believes that the amendment leaves room for the introduction of new camera technology. Officers could shoot the license plate of a speeding driver, then send the ticket in the mail, without the driver ever knowing they were busted.
“Just picture this, a police officer just hiding in a bush can have a handheld radar unit that depicts speed and it records your licence plate and sends you an automated ticket. He never has to pull you over,” Schirmbeck said.
As Tennessee also tries to put the brakes on red light cameras, another company wants to provide the Memphis Police Department with speed detectors that combine a laser, camera and automated ticketing devices.
John Baine, vice president of marketing for ATES: Traffic Solutions — the company behind the new product — said that officers would use their discretion.
Baine said that officers would likely only pull over drivers going 15 mph or 20 mph over the limit. He adds that officers would have to be trained and certified to use the LIDAR guns. He said that the focus of the technology is on modifying driver behavior.
“Sometimes, I think that is a good thing, because you’re putting an officer in harms way when you stop on the freeway,” said Keller resident Bob Stephenson.
“I’m a ‘yes’ for stoplight cameras and I’m a ‘yes’ for that technology,” said Jim Canter, citing safer roads.
Taylor’s office said that he introduced the amendment simply to clarify some language in the bill. His goal was to make the distinction between the manned technology currently used by law enforcement and the unmanned technology, like red light cameras, which would be banned under Senate Bill 714.
“The people of our district have been very vocal in their opposition to red light cameras, citing many different concerns ranging from devices being misused and unregulated to constitutional and privacy concerns,” Taylor said in a statement. “With the advice and counsel of my constituents, I helped pass Senate Bill 714 out of the Senate Transportation Committee. If enacted, this bill would prohibit the use of red light cameras in Texas.”
Additionally, according to Senator Taylor’s Chief of Staff–Lonnie Dietz–Senator Bob Hall’s existing bill repeals various sections of the transportation code, like Sec. 707.011, that currently allow for the mailing of citations.
“Senator Taylor’s amendment did nothing to reinstate the section, rather it just clarified the type of devices that are prohibited to use,” says Chief of Staff Lonnie Dietz.
The office maintains that if SB714 were to become law, the mailing of red light citations would therefore be prohibited.