Tag Archives: red-light cameras

Zipper merging = the safer way

The next time you drive up to a road construction site transportation experts want you to think “Zipper.”  So instead of merging into a single lane early as possible, experts state that it is better to drive to the end of the lane that has to merge and proceed to take turns merging in a zipper-like fashion.

The problem typically occurs when most drivers see the first “lane closed ahead” sign in a work zone and they immediately slow down and attempt to merge into the lane that will continue through the construction area. People assume that if they don’t merge early they no-one will allow them to merge later, or that it is impolite to pass up the line to merge closer to the work zone.  And sometimes driver’s will react angrily that another car has passed them up after they had been waiting in line first and for a longer time.  Some will even straddle the center line between the two lanes to prevent such attempts.

But the reality is that the passersbys are following proper protocol while the lane straddlers are in the wrong.  Zipper merging is the most efficient way for traffic to come together when the number of lanes has been reduced.

This early merging behavior often leads to dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and even road rage.

Experts state the benefits of zipper merging is that research shows it decreases the possibility of dangerous lane switching and other accidents that lead to road rage.  Don’t worry about being nice at the first sight of a construction zone.  Stay in your current lane up to the point of merging. Then alternate with other drivers to safely ease into the remaining open lane.

So the bottom line is that courtesy driving in the context of lane closures is to proceed to the end of the lane where you take turns merging into the open lane.  This will lead to less accidents and road rage.

Citizens may get chance to vote red light camera tickets out

The Missouri House of Representatives recently moved legislation that would allow citizens to determine what to do with red light cameras. State Representative Bryan Spencer (R-Wentzville) introduced the ballot measure by voice vote.  The bill will receive a final vote in the state House after a fiscal review of it.

The bill then would need to be passed by the Senate and signed into law.

The bill calls for asking voters whether they want to stop cities from making new deals with red light and speed camera companies.

The bill allows jurisdictions with existing automated ticketing programs one year to wind down their contracts and shut the cameras down. The proposal also prohibits the mailing of automated citations.
Known as House Bill 1945, it calls for motorists who get a red light ticket to receive in person notification from a law enforcement officer working with the agency issuing the ticket.  It also allows the use of automated license plate readers.  The bill calls for a ballot measure on November 8.

Cases that are excluded from the bill are hit and run cases, parking tickets, open investigations, and cases in which in-person notification is not possible.

A similar bill had passed in the Missouri House last year but failed to make it to the Senate.

Similar bans have been successful at the county level in St. Charles where voters banned automated ticketing machines in 2014.  In November 2015, a court rejected attempts from three municipals to reinstate their use of the ticketing machines.

Missouri Supreme Court to decide on camera tickets

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments on three separate cases regarding speeding and red light cameras. The cases involved red light camera tickets out of St. Louis City and St. Peters and speeding camera tickets out of Moline Acres. These three cases hit slightly different issues regarding the legality of camera tickets. The ordinances from these jurisdictions were overturned by lower courts that deemed them in violation of state law.

St. Louis City takes a picture of the license plate and issues the ticket to the owner of the vehicle. Proponents indicate that the over 50 intersection cameras free up the police and make the community safer. Police Chief Sam Dotson reasons that the cameras mean more officers are out patrolling neighborhoods instead of enforcing traffic laws. The opponents argue that the owner is only operating the vehicle 70-80% of the time. The onus is put on the owner to prove that s/he is not the driver instead of requiring the City Prosecutors to prove that a violation had occurred. While the St. Louis City tickets were overturned, the judge put a stay on the order to allow for the appeal. City is still issuing tickets; however, all fines collected are being placed in an escrow account pending the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court.

The cameras in St. Peters show the license plate and the driver. Pursuant to the attorneys for the city of St. Peters, the tickets are issued to the operator not necessarily the owner. These tickets do not assess points upon payment. The lower courts found the ordinance in violation of the Missouri Law that requires points to be assessed for a moving violation.

Moline Acres uses speeding cameras. Carl Lumley, attorney for Moline Acres, argues that the owners are ticketed for allowing their vehicles to speed. The citation is for not supervising their vehicle correctly not for speeding. Owners can attempt to prove that they did not give permission to the driver to operate the vehicle. Once again this places the burden of proof on the owner instead of the Prosecutors.

The legislature could have approved a proposal earlier this year that would have set forth a legal framework, but the proposed bills did not pass the May session. The Supreme Court decision will hopefully settle the uncertainty that currently follows on the camera tickets.  The decision will hopefully come out by the end of the year.

Supreme Court declines to hear red light camera appeals

The Supreme Court of Missouri has declined to review the red-light camera appeals from Kansas City, Creve Coeur and Florissant. These requests had been filed by the cities and American Traffic Solutions, Inc the provider of the cameras.

The Appellate Courts had issued concerns that the ordinances conflicted with state law requiring the issuance of points for moving violations. The cases will be remanded back where the cities can attempt to provide justification for the ordinances.

The Supreme Court has not addressed the recent Ellisville, Arnold or City of St. Louis rulings regarding traffic cameras.