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Lembke not satisfied with recent opinion on red light cameras

Red light cameras at an intersection in Hazelwood, Mo.
(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Red light cameras at an intersection in Hazelwood, Mo.

South County Republican state Senator Jim Lembke says the opinion issued last week by attorney general Chris Koster still doesn't convince him that some municipal ordinances authorizing red light cameras are legal.

Lembke, who's introduced legislation again this year that would ban the use of the cameras, says he agrees that local governments are allowed to put up the cameras.

But he says a number of them are ignoring thesection of Missouri law that says any regulation that goes above and beyond state statutes cannot contradict state law.

The state's traffic code, Lembke says, makes running a red light amoving violation.By law, that means a driver should get two pointson his or her license.

But drivers, he says, are getting away with just paying a fine. (Some ordinances, including those in Arnold, Ellisville, andSt. Petersexplicitly state that drivers will not have points assessed.)

"My question to the attorney general is, why aren't they enforcing state law?" Lembke says. "Why are they letting these municipalities get away with this?"

That difference, he says, means the cameras don't do anything for safety.

"Dangerous drivers are accumulating one red light camera ticket after another, paying a fine, and not getting points assessed. And the intent of the legislature was that if a dangerous driver got 8 points over an 18-month period, they were in danger of losing their driving privileges."  Supporters of the cameras say research shows the number of serious accidents has dropped at intersections where the cameras are installed.

Lembke is currently fighting a ticket issued when a car registered to him name was photographed going through a red light at an intersection in St. Louis city. He says he was not driving the car, but will not say who was.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.