Kansas City Red-Light Cameras Could Be Turned On Again

Aug 19, 2015

Credit KCUR file photo

Red light traffic cameras could be coming back to life in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The cameras have been turned off for nearly two years as the city awaited decisions from the state Supreme Court on cases challenging the constitutionality of traffic camera ordinances in the St. Louis area. 

The question on the city's mind: whether the cameras themselves are unconstitutional.

The decision came Tuesday. Though the ordinances in the other communities were declared unconstitutional, the cameras were not. 

The problem with the other communities' laws was that vehicle owners were presumed responsible and were fined regardless of whether they protested that they were not driving when their car ran the traffic light. The cameras in question produce an identifiable photo of the license plate, but not the driver.

At the time, Kansas City decided to keep its traffic cameras turned off indefinitely, the City Council was poised to vote on an ordinance the city legal department believed would solve all conflicts with the Missouri Constitution and other state laws. 

Pending the resolution of legal challenges involving other cities and of a lawsuit against the city by persons who had been fined under the existing ordinance, the revisions were sent back to committee and never re-emerged.

Now, the city manager's office says it is time to dust off the tabled ordinance, give it a second legal checkup in view of Tuesday's Supreme Court rulings.

Under the tabled change, the owner of the vehicle is the presumed driver, but if another person was driving the car, the owner can name that person and ask the traffic court to issue the ticket to him or her.

There has been a loud outcry from some members of the public against the automated traffic enforcers since they were introduced in 2009. Generally, objections have called their use as “spying,” invasion of privacy and/or designed primarily to generate municipal revenue.

The cameras have, though, been popular with police and the City Council.  Both contend the issue is safety, not revenue.

Several reports have been presented which showed that after an initial spike in citations at the monitored intersections, incidence of red-light-running decreased.  The reports also suggested that the cameras reduced the most serious injury accidents at those intersections.