The era of rampant speeding and drivers running through red lights in St. Louis may soon come to an end. The city is working to bring red light cameras back.
Ward 3 Alderman Shane Cohn will file a bill tomorrow to bring automated traffic enforcement back to the city as part of a larger effort to improve the safety of St. Louis streets.
Cohn’s bill comes eight years after the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a previous city ordinance that allowed red light cameras. Fines from the cameras were unconstitutional, the court said in 2015 — mostly because car owners were fined even if they weren’t the one driving the car. That same year, state lawmakers voted to cap how much revenue most municipalities could collect from traffic fines to 20 percent of a city's operating budget, down from 30 percent.
But the court’s ruling didn’t ban red light cameras outright. Instead, it required municipalities to verify a driver’s identity.
Cohn, Mayor Tishaura Jones and Board of Aldermen President Megan Green insist the upcoming bill fits in the confines of what state law allows.
“As it stands, this legislation safeguards privacy rights, ensures due process as outlined by the Missouri Supreme Court and continually assesses the program for effectiveness and impact on communities of color,” Jones said at a press conference today.
Jones added that the legislation was crafted with an “eye toward equality,” and stressed that the bill will not be a source of revenue for the city. Fines generated from the cameras will go toward driver’s education classes and to what city leaders called the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Improvement Fund, which Green said will be used to improve infrastructure.
“The Neighborhood Traffic Safety Improvement Fund will disburse funds to be used only for preventative traffic safety projects on non-arterial residential roads, such as crosswalk striping, illuminated stop signs, speed limits signage and so on,” Green said.
So far this year, 27 people have died in crashes in St. Louis, and four pedestrians have been killed while walking on city streets, according to the mayor’s office. A slew of pedestrian and cyclist deaths last summer fueled City Hall’s efforts to allocate funding for safer streets. Earlier this year, city leaders approved a $40 million plan to improve street infrastructure and traffic calming across major corridors and at common crash sites.
“We heard from the public then that infrastructure improvements alone were not enough and that we needed stronger enforcement and education,” Green said.
What that enforcement and education may look like is yet to be fleshed out. Details such as how many cameras the city may place throughout the city will be determined after the city sends out a request for bids and selects a vendor, Cohn explained.
Cohn, while standing outside St. Mary’s South Side Catholic High School in Dutchtown, lamented an eight-car crash that killed two and injured three a few blocks away in November.
“One accident is too many,” Cohn said.
This story has been updated to correct the percentage of city budgets that could come from traffic fines.
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