Ohio needs statewide policy covering cameras

The city of Steubenville’s residents pronounced the concept of traffic cameras for speed law enforcement dead with a referendum in 2006.

The issue was put to bed after a common pleas court injunction that ordered $258,000 in fines be repaid to drivers who were fined in a short period of time the cameras were in service. City fathers tried a second time with a new ordinance that the city believed addressed the deficiencies that the court cited in the first injunction.

Voters, under the city charter, were able to petition to put the issue on the city ballot, where the question of establishing a city automated traffic law enforcement system was put to voters. Voters said no by a landslide.

But that took care of the issue only in Steubenville.

Traffic cameras for speeding enforcement and traffic light enforcement continue to rear their little electronic heads around the state. The same basic issues about due process continue to rise, again and again, in court after court.

The latest is a case following the usual pattern. A driver challenges the ticket. Other drivers join in. A judge has ruled that the ticketed drivers could constitute an injured class and allows the lawsuit – this time againt New Miami village – to proceed as a class-action lawsuit that could see refunds to ticketed drivers. New Miami established the administrative system that Steubenville voters nixed under the city-charter permitted referendum, and the judge says that system favors the village. More than $1 million in fines were collected in the year the cameras have been used in the village of 2,200 in Southwest Ohio.

There are appellate rulings going through the state court system from Toledo and Cleveland that ruled against the camera system. A case that made it to the Ohio Supreme Court saw the justices approve camera use in Akron.

It is far past time – nearly a decade – for Ohio to have a statewide policy about the traffic cameras.

Either municipalities have the right to tap into a cash cow that results from the robotic unblinking eye, or due process involving the normal court challenges that can occur must be established.

The problem is, there’s no human officer to challenge in court, and the camera isn’t about to answer any questions.