This last legislative session, I was asked by countless constituents to sponsor legislation to outlaw traffic cameras across the state of Tennessee. After carefully reviewing the research on traffic cameras, I came to some very disturbing conclusions. We are told the cameras are for safety, not revenue. We are told if you aren’t breaking the law, you have nothing to worry about. It’s all an elaborate scheme.
Virtually every study cited by city officials to build a case that traffic cameras improve safety are actually funded by the very companies and municipalities making millions of dollars off of them. When these studies are reviewed by independent agencies, they are found to be highly flawed and manipulated. The truth is, studies that best adhere to scientific research methods find that cameras are actually associated with an increase in crashes and injuries. If not for safety, then what for?
Money. Research from the University of Tennessee shows the cameras are used to generate revenue. In fact, University of Tennessee researchers said municipalities purposefully remove state sanctioned signs warning drivers about the cameras (required by law), shorten yellow light times and increase speed limits just before the location of cameras in order to increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket. What happens to all of that money? It flows to Arizona and Australia, where the two camera vendors Tennessee uses are located. Yes, you read that correctly: Australia.
The vast majority of the money leaves the local economy. In a single year, Gallatin and Murfreesboro collected more than $1.4 million in traffic camera fines. The cities sent almost $1.1 million of that money out of state and country to pay ATS and RedFlex.
Corruption, bribery and backroom deals also surround the cameras. A federal investigation was launched against RedFlex, Tennessee’s largest traffic camera vendor, last year. Just this month, Redflex officials pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case involving multiple states. The ongoing case shows Tennessee officials were likely involved in accepting bribes to install cameras across the state.
Traffic cameras have flipped our justice system on its head. When a camera issues a citation, it cites the car, not the individual driving the car. This places the burden of proof on the individual rather than the government. With this precedent, government can accuse you of anything it likes without having any evidence you committed the crime. In committee last session, a Chattanooga police chief testified in favor of the cameras, but was at a total loss for words when presented with the fact that the cameras are unconstitutional, contradict state law, and the laws themselves that allow them in Tennessee are purposefully crafted to try and deny people their constitutional rights.
Have you ever received a traffic camera ticket? It comes on an “official letter” from the city. However, it’s actually not the city. It’s RedFlex or ATS using the city’s letterhead. Call any of the numbers on the “citation” and you get an operator in Arizona or somewhere half way around the world. Strangely, as if trying to hide something, you won’t see a RedFlex or ATS logo anywhere on the letter. In fact, it’s literally impossible to even speak with an official from the city that is accusing you of breaking the law. Did you know that state law actually prohibits any negative actions being taken against your credit report, driver’s license or insurance if you choose not to pay the ticket? In fact, there is no enforcement mechanism at all. However, if you didn’t commit the crime, and choose to exercise your right and not pay the ticket, these companies then begin to threaten you on a daily basis. I have literally sat in on calls and listened to them blatantly lie to the great people of Tennessee in order to collect their illegally issued fines. Let me be clear, if you don’t pay the ticket, there is nothing they can do to your credit, license or insurance rates. Do note that I am not encouraging people to break the law, but am simply informing you of your rights because if I do not, you will be lied to and coerced.
For the above reasons, I decided to take a stand. My original bill sought to restore your constitutional rights by outlawing these cameras in all forms. RedFlex and ATS fought tooth and nail to defeat the bill. We were only able to outlaw speed cameras this year. However, the Constitution prohibits the State from voiding a contact, so RedFlex and ATS decided to sneak into multiple cities and quietly extended their contracts 20+ years just days before the law was signed. Almost seventy-five percent of the State House and all but one State Senator voted in favor of outlawing the cameras. These companies and cities purposefully ignored the voice of the people in favor of profit. The people of Tennessee deserve better, and I will continue to fight on their behalf.