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Senate preparing to expand red light cameras to Pittsburgh, large Philly suburbs

By   /   June 28, 2012  /   8 Comments

Amendment to be offered by Senate Majority Leader on Thursday

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – Red-light cameras could be heading to Pittsburgh and some Philadelphia suburbs.

A proposed amendment to be offered on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon will include language to continue the existing red-light camera program in Philadelphia through 2017, and would expand the program to Pittsburgh and to some of the larger municipalities in the counties bordering Philadelphia.

The municipalities eligible for the cameras would have to exceed 20,000 residents and have full-time police forces accredited by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

The amendment is expected to be added to HB 254.  The Senate could approve it as early as Friday, according to Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, who is sponsoring the amendment.

“This is 100 percent a safety issue for Senator Pileggi. He believes that the use of red-light cameras at dangerous intersections has saved lives in Philadelphia, and will save lives in other municipalities as well,” Arneson wrote in an email.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent nonprofit dedicated to reducing accidents and deaths due to crashes, estimates that 150 lives have been saved over the past five years in the 14 largest cities to have red-light cameras.

But the National Motorists Association, a national organization that defends the rights of motorists, opposes the cameras over concerns they are primarily used to increase revenues and because the driver of the vehicle cannot be positively identified by cameras that capture license plates only.

Other opponents question if the cameras actually improve safety.

An October 2011 report in the Philadelphia Inquirer found that accident rates had increased at intersections where red light cameras were installed in 2005, according to police data.

Kevin Harley, spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett, said the administration was not opposed to the expansion of the cameras.

The following municipalities would be allowed to use red-light cameras under the proposal:

  • In Bucks County: Middletown and Warminster Townships
  • In Delaware County: Springfield Township
  • In Montgomery County: Norristown Borough and Abington, Horsham, Lower Merion, Lower Providence, Montgomery, Upper Dublin and Upper Merion Townships
  • In Chester County, no municipalities would now qualify.

Violations would be set at $100, but municipalities would be able to set lower amounts.  Violators would have to pay a fine, but would not get points on their license.

Municipalities affected by the legislation would have to receive approval from PennDOT before installing cameras at any intersection, according to the proposal.