ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Drive around Central Texas and you’re likely to come across a camera watching you at an intersection. Several cities in our area use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights.
At Round Rock police headquarters, the chief has a list of 14,000 unpaid red light violations. Because they’re civil violations, police can’t go after them.
“That was something that was brought to city council, how do we hold people accountable?,” said Chief Allen Banks. Round Rock currently has 10 red light enforcement cameras operating at six intersections. Many are placed along the I-35 feeder road and Lamar Boulevard.
There are two main reasons for the unpaid fines: many drivers lives outside of Texas and police do not have the ability to collect fees outside of Texas and the citation given from red light cameras is a civil penalty, not a criminal violation. If you get pulled over running a red light that’s a $207 fine and a court date. But if you get caught by a camera, it’s a $75 fine. There’s an appeals process but there is no way Round Rock can make you pay.
For the ones who do pay, who makes the money? According to city records, in the last three and a half years, Round Rock has collected just more than $175,000. The city’s vendor, RedFlex, has made more than $2 million. RedFlex pays for the installation and upkeep of the cameras.
When Sam Held pulls up to one of the intersections outfitted with the cameras, he’s always a little more apprehensive.
“I know their number one concern is people’s safety. But I think there’s always going to be a secondary business concern,” said Held.
Compiling police data, the cameras have made no difference in traffic behavior. Chief Banks says if the cameras were gone, they would spend their efforts on public awareness campaigns against distracted driving.
“Our hope is an our goal is to make sure people know what’s going on,” said Chief Banks. “If we don’t take those steps to change bad driving behaviors. Then it doesn’t work.”
At least three Round Rock city council members have said publicly they are in favor of removing the red light cameras. The transportation department says the contract with RedFlex is up next year.
In Austin, officials are still committed to keeping red light cameras in place.
Records show crash numbers have dropped at many of these intersections since the red light cameras were installed. At MLK and I-35, there were 23 crashes last year. But in 2008, before the cameras were added, there were 53.
The red light program isn’t as lucrative as you might think. In 2013, the city collected $586,000 after 9,200 tickets were filed. Then last year, the city collected $790,000 after 12,000 tickets were filed.
But every year, the city has to pay Redflex $584,000 a year.