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Tenn. judge stops Valley red-light vendors in tracks

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-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.

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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Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com