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Red light, green light: Dierker loses first round of legal fight

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 4, 2009 - St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker has apparently lost his legal challenge of the city's red-light camera law.

Circuit Judge Ralph H. Jaynes ruled today that the city's red light cameras are legal and constitutional. Still pending is a determination of whether Dierker actually ran a red light.

The red-light camera industry was swift to pounce on Jaynes' decision.

"This ruling solidifies that the city of St. Louis' red light program, like the other Missouri cities with red light camera programs, is legal and constitutional," said George Hittner, vice president and general counsel of American Traffic Solutions. "Red light camera programs are the most fair, consistent and objective way to curb bad driving behavior and produce almost immediate public safety results."

Today's ruling was in line with a July federal court ruling in favor of Arnold's red-light cameras. It also comes amid a continuing battle in Missouri over the red-light cameras, which have pitted municipalities that use them against some legislators alleging the cameras are improper and violate drivers' privacy.

Ron Smith, the city of St. Louis' director of operations, declined to comment on Dierker's case.

But Smith was happy to defend the city's use of red-light cameras. "We stand behind our red-light camera program,'' he said.

In intersections where the cameras are posted, Smith said there is a decline in people running red lights -- or driving into the intersection under the "yellow."

The result, he continued, is fewer accidents. "We feel it does influence driver behavior,'' Smith said. "We feel we are having an effect on public safety."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.