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Colorado poised to ban red-light cameras

The Colorado state legislature is considering doing away with a major source of revenue for many cities and towns — and a major headache for motorists — by banning red-light and photo-radar cameras.

The bill has bipartisan support, but police and some city leaders oppose the move, saying red-light cameras make intersections safer while providing an ample amount of revenue from fines.

Sponsors disagree, arguing that the cameras — which snap photos of cars running red lights or stopping a foot or two into the intersection — haven’t made roads safer and that they’re only embraced because they tend to be money makers. The city of Denver, for instance, earned $7.8 million in fines and fees last year from motorists photographed while speeding or running red lights, according to the Denver Post. Aurora made about $1.5 million.

“These cameras just create revenue for cities and don’t actually increase public safety at our intersections,” Democratic Speaker Mark Ferrandino, one of the bill’s sponsors, is quoted as saying in the Post. “I think we should be focused on making people safe, not raising money.”

Those on both sides of the argument point to traffic studies to make their cases that the red-light cameras either improve safety or don’t.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates testified that T-bone accidents caused by drivers running red lights are down 25 percent since the cameras were installed, but the Aurora Sentinel reported that accidents involving motorists who were rear-ended when suddenly braking for a yellow light skyrocketed from 2005-2006 by 175 percent.

Opponents also argue that the state has no business telling cities what to do.

“It’s not up to them to decide what our ordinance should be,” Aurora City Councilwoman Barb Cleland told the Sentinel.

While sponsors told the Denver Post they have the votes to pass the measure, they’re not sure it will get past the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Post reported that his staff is still studying the issue and hasn’t expressed an opinion.

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