In Akron and 14 other communities across Ohio, red-light and speed cameras act as a powerful incentive for motorists to follow traffic laws, dramatically reducing accidents and fatalities. But against the sound advice of municipal officials, police officers and safety experts, the Ohio House last week voted for a sweeping ban on the devices.
A limited exemption was allowed — for school zones — but only if a police officer is present. That would defeat the role of cameras in augmenting the work of police officers. In Akron, where speed cameras are used only in school zones, six assigned on a rotating basis, officers would have to be diverted from other duties.
To be sure, a few towns have acted abusively, one tiny village in the Cincinnati area raking in $1.5 million in a few months, until a judge shut down the operation. In other words, the legal system functioned as it should.
In its overreaching, the House not only ignored persuasive evidence that speed and red-light cameras make roads safer, but it also trampled on the basic idea behind home rule powers given to local governments: Locally elected officials, who must answer directly to their constituents, are in the best position to make decisions on issues such as traffic safety. And if they allow for misguided policies and procedures, they become vulnerable to having voters boot them from office.
It is now up to the Ohio Senate to put on the brakes, considering more carefully the need for local governments to decide local matters and the effectiveness of traffic cameras in preventing crashes and deaths.