NewsChannel 10 Investigates: Red light camera enforcement - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

NewsChannel 10 Investigates: Red light camera enforcement

AMARILLO, TX- Thousands of drivers are running red lights and refusing to pay the fine.

As NewsChannel 10 discovered, there's little the city can do, essentially giving them the green light to run the red light.

Thus far this year, the city is still waiting to collect more than $100,000 in fines from violators.

In the wake of that news, commissioners are also looking at expanding the program.

But is it really a success if there's no driving force behind the penalties?

More than 57,000 violators have been caught on camera barreling through lights since the city's red light program went into effect.

"I always thought they were a wise choice because if you look at what the common practice was in the city of Amarillo, there was very little enforcement," commissioner Brian Eades said.

In 2008, cameras were installed at five intersections across town:

Ross & I-40 south frontage road

Pierce & S.E. 11th Ave.

Pierce & S.E. 3rd Ave.

Coulter and I-40 north frontage road

Coulter and Elmhurst

Mayor Paul Harpole says the decision to install the cameras reduced collisions and potentially saved lives.

"People run red lights and are doing it at unbelievable speeds," he said. "It's a horrible danger and we saw that it was very important to consider this (camera installation) to raise awareness and let people know you can't just do this indiscriminately around town."

While the city wants you to know you're being watched at intersections, we uncovered something the city may not have wanted publicly announced.

When it comes to enforcing red light violations, cities across the state have had minimal success with vehicle registration holds.

Texas law also prohibits the booting and towing of cars associated with red light violations. 

These barriers leave the city of Amarillo with few options.

"I'd like to discuss that with the city attorney because I do know at one point a consideration was that holds could be used at time of registration," Eades said when referring to renewing your registration sticker.

Not allowing a person to register their vehicle is the only true legal repercussion for failing to pay the $75 fine.

However, the city says they have yet to utilize that penalty.

"It's never good to not pay your fines that you're issued," Harpole added.

But apparently that's what thousands of motorists are doing.

Between January and August of this year, 7,803 violators were recorded and just over 25-percent of that population has yet to pay.

"In most cases, people pay their fines," Harpole said. "At a future date if that becomes a real problem, I'm sure we will have to go back and find a better way to collect that."

And that time may be sooner than later, because the 2,012 unpaid fines this year have resulted in more than $150,000 in lost revenue.

Despite that loss, Mayor Harpole says the program is all about safety and points to a reduction of accidents.

A subcommittee made up of members from the Amarillo traffic commission appointed by the city commission are in charge of analyzing accident data and statistics from the five red light cameras currently in use.

A set date to discuss adding new cameras or moving existing ones to new locations has not been set.

Please note: NewsChannel 10, nor any of its affiliates encourage residents to ignore unpaid red light fines. Violators who are billed for running a red light are encouraged to either pay the fine, or dispute the charge in Amarillo's municipal court. Although we reported on a subject matter containing a potential "loophole" in the justice system, we would like to warn you that unpaid fines do not disappear. The city of Amarillo says fines not paid within 30 days will increase by $25. If you fail to pay the fine after that increase, the city can send your bill to a collection agency. Finally, each county in the state of Texas has the ability to implement vehicle registration holds at the city's request.

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