KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A judge in Knoxville has thwarted a bid by two red light traffic camera vendors to overturn a state law barring tickets involving right turns on red.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Knox County Chancellor Michael W. Moyers recently entered a ruling denying a request by American Traffic Solutions, Inc., and RedFlex Traffic Systems, Inc., who wanted the statute declared unconstitutional.
Phoenix-based RedFlex installed and operates traffic cameras at four intersections in Farragut. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based ATS has 14 traffic cameras at 14 Knoxville intersections.
The companies claimed a 2011 statute interfered with existing contracts the vendors had with local government. The statute doesn't allow traffic citations to be issued for right turn on red violations if the only evidence is from a traffic camera.
In a ruling signed May 30, Moyers noted that lawmakers concluded use of traffic cameras to cite drivers for illegal right turns was less about traffic safety than about generating revenue.
"The challenged law does not in any way amend or modify the rules regarding making right turns at a red light," Moyers ruled.
ATS Vice President of Communications Charles Territo said his company is disappointed by Moyers' decision, which it is still reviewing.
"Ultimately, what's really at stake is whether or not a contract in Tennessee is worth paper it's written on," Territo said.
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Knoxville began its red light camera traffic enforcement in 2006. Two years later, the Tennessee Legislature passed a statute allowing the video enforcement. But three years after that, lawmakers passed a law exempting right turns from citations if there was not evidence beyond camera footage.
While ATS and RedFlex argued in their motion that the latter statute unconstitutionally abridged existing contracts, Moyers noted in his summary judgment that the Legislature was within its constitutional expression of police powers in passing it.
Knoxville Police Capt. Gordon Catlett, who directs the city's red light camera operation, predicted last year that collisions at intersections would increase when drivers found out they couldn't be cited on right turn violations. That didn't happen.
"Crashes still seem to be going down," Catlett said. "I'm happy to be wrong on that."
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