A resolution asking the Alabama State Legislature to allow the city to install cameras at busy intersections has put one member of the Mobile City Council at odds with the others.
At its Tuesday meeting, the council approved by a 6-1 vote an item introduced by District 5 Councilman Joel Daves that would “urge” the legislature to allow the city to use cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights. Citing success stories in other Alabama cities, including Montgomery and Auburn, Daves was hopeful the cameras would cut down on accidents.
“Traffic accidents kill tens of thousands of people and injure millions more every year in this country,” Daves said. “This technology has been deployed very successfully all over the country and in Alabama, including Montgomery where they saw 50 percent decrease in accidents and up to an 80 percent decrease in at least one instance.”
While Council President C.J. Small said he co-sponsored the resolution along with Council Vice President Gina Gregory because he feels accidents and speeding are a huge problem, other councilors felt differently.
District 4 Councilman Ben Reynolds was the lone dissenting vote on the resolution. He said he voted against it because he doesn’t know yet if it’s truly necessary. Reynolds said he would prefer to look at the city’s traffic signals themselves and see if changes can be made to the timing of yellow lights to help prevent certain collisions.
However, a bigger concern for Reynolds was one of individual rights. He argued that voting for the resolution would allow a private company to enforce the city laws, effectively limiting the rights of the citizens.
“The sole goal of a private company is to drive profits,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know if that’s what we want to do.”
Reynolds used the city of Houston as an example of how traffic cameras could go wrong. He said residents of the city voted to do away with the cameras through a referendum.
The results of the cameras’ implementation in Houston was a reduction of perpendicular crashes at an intersection, but an increase in rear-end accidents, Reynolds said.
“I think you’ll find this is a road to nowhere,” he said. “I say let’s not vote to go down this road today.”
State Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, agrees with Reynolds and said he has a “real problem” with a for-profit company issuing tickets to drivers.
On Tuesday, Daves argued that it was premature to assume a private company would be issuing the tickets because the city has yet to come up with a plan on how to implement the cameras.
“We might use a private company and we might not,” he said.
While District 1 Councilman Cory Penn and District 2 Councilman William Carroll both said they agreed with Reynolds over the concerns, both didn’t have a problem with moving the resolution to the legislature.
“I don’t mind it going to Montgomery for legislative action,” Carroll said.
Penn and Gregory both said the council could research the issue even after it gets permission from the legislature. Reynolds urged them to start the research now.
“You don’t need the legislature to give you permission to read,” he said. “The studies are out there so you can do research today.”
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