New red light camera laws under consideration

October 13, 2009 6:49:06 AM PDT
Don't think that you can get away with not paying a red light camera ticket. It could end up costing you a lot more than the price of the fine. The Harris County commissioners will consider preventing people from registering their vehicles if they have outstanding red light camera tickets. On Monday morning, the issue was in front of the Houston City Council Public Safety Committee as a way to enforce the tickets.

About 230,000 red light camera tickets are sent out from the City of Houston every year. But many of them are never paid, 158,000 of them, in fact, according to the Houston Police Department's chief financial officer. So the city and the county will consider a proposal to send one more notice.

"When they receive the grace letter, they need to understand that if they don't make the payment, that at some point in time, they won't be able to renew their registration renewal for their car," said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Fenninger.

The CFO presented the Public Safety Committee with the proposal to send out about 80,000 grace letters, threatening action if the $75 fines aren't paid. While it's yet to be approved by Harris County and the City of Houston, the idea isn't popular with drivers.

"I disagree with it whole-heartedly, especially if you're talking about doing something as far as registration of a car. I may not be the person that's driving the car," said driver Linda Coveler.

Another driver, Aziza Kendrick, said, "Red light cameras, the proposal and the idea, I just don't think it's a great one."

If it's approved, it could mean the holidays just got a little more expensive if you've been caught running a red light.

"We hope that by the middle of November that we'll be able to release these notices and we will allow them until the end of December to make the payment," said Fenninger.

Part of the problem with collection of the fines stems from the fact that many vehicle owners may have sold their cars or may be out of state.

Hospitals in Houston will benefit from red light camera fines. Houston police said more than $8.4 million paid to the state will be returned to hospital trauma centers. Nineteen Houston hospitals will get money, including Ben Taub, Memorial Hermann and Lyndon B. Johnson General.

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