Columbus Sues State To Keep Red Light Cameras Running

A judge in northwest Ohio has issued a legal red light, blocking a new state law sharply restricting use of traffic camera enforcement from taking effect Monday in Toledo.

Lucas County Judge Dean Mandros on Sunday granted the city’s request for a temporary injunction. Toledo can continue using cameras to cite drivers for speeding or running red lights, pending a ruling on its request for a permanent injunction against what the city called “nonsensical provisions” under the new law.

Columbus, Akron, Dayton and Springfield also have filed legal challenges to the new law. The cities say the law, with camera restrictions including requiring a police officer’s presence when photo enforcement is used, would make traffic photo enforcement impractical. Akron was continuing Monday to use speeding cameras.

In Akron, City spokeswoman Stephanie York said officials believe the Lucas County ruling has statewide impact.

“There is nothing that supports the notion that the state is only enjoined in Toledo,” said York, also assistant law director for Akron. “Until a court comes out with a contrary opinion, we are running our speed cameras in school zones as usual today.”

The other suing cities said they were studying the Lucas County ruling.

In Columbus, George Speaks, director of public safety, said Ohio’s capital city wasn’t using cameras for red-light enforcement on Monday because of the new law, but that the city was reviewing Mandros’ ruling. Dayton spokeswoman Toni Bankston said no tickets were being issued through its traffic cameras, but that officials planned to discuss the Lucas County injunction’s possible effect on its program. Springfield’s law director, Jerry Strozdas, said that western Ohio city stopped camera citations as of Monday, and is waiting for the court cases to play out.

Critics say camera enforcement tramples motorists’ rights and is mainly meant to raise revenues. Several courts around the state have ruled against camera use, including with orders to turn them off in the southwest Ohio villages of Elmwood Place and New Miami.

But Toledo won a 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court ruling in December upholding its camera enforcement, after a motorist who got a speeding ticket sued the city. Toledo and other cities say camera use makes streets safer and stretches police resources.

Mandros said the new restrictions passed late last year by state legislators violate Toledo’s “home rule” authority under the Ohio constitution and he said the public’s interest is served by blocking the new camera restrictions.

“Slower-moving traffic and fewer red-light violators results in greater safety for fellow drivers and pedestrians alike,” Mandros wrote. He added that camera enforcement allows the city to “dedicate and direct its limited manpower to other areas.”

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