Free pass for emergency vehicles?

March 20, 2009 4:48:17 PM PDT
A former Houston police officer and now state representative is pushing legislation that would exempt emergency vehicles from getting red light tickets, even if they're not headed to an emergency. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Opponents call it special treatment, but supporters say it necessary.

In an emergency, every minute and every second counts. No one knows that more than our first responders. It's a concept sophisticated technology, like red light cameras, fail to understand.

"We want to make sure when men and women are out doing their job for you and I in our community, they're not being unduly punished by having a ticket issued to them when they're just doing their job," said State Representative Allen Fletcher (R) of Tomball.

So Rep. Fletcher authored a bill that would exempt anyone driving a government-issued vehicle from getting a ticket, even in non-emergencies.

The Houston Police Officers' Union asked Fletcher, a retired Houston cop, to draft the legislation.

"It's hampering some criminal investigations where you have rolling surveillances and things of that nature, where you have unmarked police vehicles," said HPOU President Gary Blankinship.

Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriske, who until Friday hadn't heard of the bill, told us that while he respects HPOU's position, he believes, "?in non-emergency responses, we have the same responsibility as the community."

The proposal drew mixed reactions Friday outside municipal court, where people come to deal with traffic related issues.

"If I did it, I get a ticket," said Krystle Hickman, who opposes the bill. "If they do it, it's OK. So I think they should get a ticket just like me."

"It's police," countered Vicky Martinez, who supports the bill. "They take care of us and if it's an emergency for them, I think it's a good thing."

Both HPD and HFD employees driving city vehicles will get slapped with a fine unless they are heading to emergencies.

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