Say cheese! State greenlights applications for automated speed and red light cameras

Got the need for speed?
Within months, you could get a ticket in the mail – without even getting pulled over. As of today, the Connecticut Department of Transportation is accepting applications for communities to install automated speed and red light cameras.
“IT’S UNACCEPTABLE”
Stamford plans to apply. The city’s roads are so dangerous that two pedestrians were killed right outside the city Government Center a year ago.
“Sometimes I worry about, you know, that somebody’s not really paying attention,” said Enida Sanches, of Stamford.
Mayor Caroline Simmons has seen enough.
“It's unacceptable,” she said. “We have to get drivers to slow down.”
HOW WILL CAMERAS WORK?
On Tuesday, DOT gave communities the greenlight to apply for automated enforcement cameras. But there are strict rules about where they can be placed.
Red light cameras will be limited to intersections with two crashes in the last three years. Speed cameras can only go in spots with high accident rates, school zones or “Pedestrian Safety Zones” with lots of foot or bicycle traffic. “A community cannot just come in overnight and put up a red light camera or a speed camera,” said DOT spokesperson Josh Morgan. “They have to have a plan; they have to have a public hearing.”
Drivers will know exactly where the cameras are. They will have to be clearly marked with two warning signs, at least 100 feet ahead. Locations will also appear on GPS navigation systems. You’ll get a ticket in the mail if a camera clocks you going at least 10 mph over the speed limit. Violations will be handled like parking tickets, with fines but no points on a license.
CONTROVERSIAL CAMERAS
Traffic enforcement cameras have led to notable drops in traffic deaths in places such as New York City and Washington, D.C.
But they are deeply controversial.
After years of debate, Connecticut lawmakers approved the technology last June. Opponents argued that cameras could be disproportionably placed in urban areas, targeting minorities. To ease fears, only two cameras will be allowed in lower-income census tracts.
Civil liberties groups have also raised privacy concerns, but the law strictly limits the cameras to speed and red light enforcement.
“The footage cannot be shared with law enforcement. The footage cannot be used in terms of looking for stolen vehicles or active investigations,” said Morgan. “The image that’s being captured are strictly of the license plate – not the people operating the vehicle.”
WHERE WILL CAMERAS GO UP?
Several other cities – including Waterbury, West Hartford and New Haven – have also expressed interest in automated cameras.
In Stamford, Simmons said the first locations will be school zones.
“There’s a lot of people that walk to school,” she said. “In other cities where these cameras have been deployed, they have been an effective deterrent in getting drivers to slow down. We can’t have a cop on every single corner.”
Despite the cameras’ controversy, some drivers think something has to be done. “If the speed is 55, people are driving are 75, 85,” said Muhammad Afzal, of Stamford. “Nobody is catching them.”
The cameras won’t go up quickly. Once a city or town approves an enforcement plan, DOT has up to 60 days to approve it. Then, a vendor must be hired to actually install the technology. In Stamford, the mayor said it will take at least a year to get the first phase up and running.
DOT must reauthorize camera locations every three years.