Lawmakers advance red light camera bill

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Drivers stop for a red light at Kuakini Highway and Kalani Street in Kailua-Kona.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today A bill in the state Legislature would fund red light cameras.

KAILUA-KONA — A bill in the state Senate proposing a red light detector systems program overcame its first hurdle Thursday, clearing a joint Judiciary and Transportation committee, and is now waiting to be heard by the Committee on Ways and Means.

There has been overwhelming support for Senate Bill 663 — from state departments to county officials, to bicycle organizations and private citizens.

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Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye, D-North Hawaii, is a co-sponsor of the measure. The purpose of the bill is to establish a photo red light detector systems program to deter motorists from running red lights and free police officers to respond to priority calls.

The Hawaii County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was one of the agencies submitting testimony in favor of the measure.

“Record numbers of pedestrians, as well as people biking and driving are injured or killed on our streets by irresponsible drivers. Everyone has the right to be safe on Hawaii’s roads,” states the prosecutor’s office testimony.

Very little of the testimony was in opposition to the measure, such as testimony from the Office of the Public Defender.

“Although we believe that strict enforcement of our traffic laws results in a reduction of traffic accidents and increased traffic safety, we do not believe this measure appropriately balances the rights of the accused violators with the public’s interest in traffic safety,” says testimony from the public defender’s office.

The Senate Committee on Transportation passed the measure with amendments on a 3-2 vote. The Judiciary Committee passed it with amendments on a 4-1 vote, with one reservation.

Amendments to the bill include funding $200,000 for 2019-20 and 2020-21 from the state Highways Division, insertion of fines, language that includes who sees and uses the photos taken and language that includes a time frame for when photos would be deleted.

According to the Hawaii Police Department, from Jan. 1-June 30, 2018, there were 110 red light violations islandwide. Maj. Robert Wagner said a red light violation is defined as a motorist entering an intersection when a traffic signal is red.

“If you enter with yellow and leave when red, that is not a red light violation,” he said.

SB 663 outlines numerous benefits to enacting the program. Not only are streets safer, but police officers are freed from “time consuming duties” of traffic enforcement and have time to respond to priority calls. Also, violators are less likely to go to court because of the photograph, which can be used as evidence against them.

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A date for the bill to be heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means has not yet been set.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

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