Lawmakers Block Bid by Stephen Humphrey, Tim Neville to Make Colorado Streets Deadlier

Public safety research prevailed over an attempt to outlaw speed cameras and red light cameras.

Representative Stephen Humphrey, left, and Senator Tim Neville.
Representative Stephen Humphrey, left, and Senator Tim Neville.

In an 8 to 4 vote yesterday, the House Transportation and Energy Committee rejected a bill that would have banned speed cameras and red light cameras statewide.

Police officers, residents, and advocates — 19 people all told — spoke against HB 1072. One person, a rep from the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by Representative Stephen Humphrey and Senator Tim Neville, both Republicans.

Opponents of the bill presented copious evidence demonstrating the life-saving impact of automated enforcement. A raft of studies and data collected by Denver Public Works and the Denver Police Department, as well as research from national groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, clearly shows that enforcement cameras work.

At 6th and Lincoln, red light cameras have led to a 60 percent decrease in total crashes and a 70 percent decrease in T-bone crashes, which are the most likely type of crash to be fatal, said DPW traffic engineer David Digiacomo.

Nationally, an IIHS study of 14 cities concluded that cameras reduced fatal collisions from red light running 24 percent.

For his part, Humphrey cited “concerns about not being able to confront your accuser” and a seven-year-old audit that questioned whether the Denver PD program was effective. The city has since demonstrated that speed cameras and red light cameras have reduced the incidence of traffic fatalities and injuries.

With 51 traffic deaths and nearly 300 serious injuries on city streets last year, there’s no wonder why Lieutenant Robert Rock, who reconstructs crashes as the head of traffic investigations, called them “primary tools” in Denver’s traffic safety initiatives.

“We’re seeing a lot of carnage on the streets of Denver, and automated enforcement, where we have employed it, has helped to reduce the instances of those,” Rock said. No one’s been killed or seriously injured at 6th and Kalamath, for example, since the department installed cameras in 2008.

This isn’t the first time legislators have tried to make streets deadlier by casting it as a crusade against Big Brother. In 2016 Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have restricted the use of electronic traffic enforcement.

Using proven technology to reduce speeding and red light running isn’t an abstract issue to Denver residents like Willy Schumann, who lives in north Lakewood and can’t afford a car. He walks, bikes, and takes transit to get around. A driver struck his girlfriend, who no longer feels safe walking around her neighborhood.

“Speeding motorists tend not to yield to pedestrians, and they tend to put cyclists in danger,” he testified. “I’ve witnessed drivers recklessly endanger members of my community just walking across the crosswalk with their child in the stroller just because they couldn’t bother to slow down. More often than not, I am seen as an obstacle to be overcome, rather than a human being.”

  • TakeFive

    It’s interesting the effort that was made by opponents. Good to get it on the record I suppose.

    I’ll assume Humphrey and Neville were pandering to some conservative group or constituency. With Dems controlling the House, Humphrey (who reps a rural area in NoCo) never had a chance and obviously didn’t put forth much effort. Just your standard political silliness which amps up in an election year, especially one that will elect a new governor.

  • Aaron

    Not sure, on the average, that law enforcement has shown more interest in my well being than the ACLU. In this specific debate, there are many ways to calm traffic and reduce our reliance on cars and the concerns about “Big Brother” are not unfounded. Enforcement is a second rate tactic that brings in entities with many interests other than health, safety or infrastructure improvement.

    Just because something works, doesn’t make it an appropriate or best solution. There’s no harm considering the bigger picture… indeed, considering the monumental shift in transportation thinking many of us want, it’s imperative.

    • Then the ACLU should advocate for those solutions.

      The fact is, even if we were 100% on board with changing, and started today, it would a minimum of 20-30 years to fix every road.

      So given that, in todays world, we need enforcement as an option to improve safety.

      Now I would be curious as to what the ACLU’s input was. Perhaps they suggested ways to protect people from the bad parts of enforcement (especially discrimination, which automated enforcement already doesn’t have as big a problem with), or were they simply against automated enforcement?

      • Aaron

        Sadly, I think you are correct. Widespread change will take 30 years or more no matter the solution. I’ve been bike commuting since 1976. I have a feel for that arc and the slow progress.

        The ACLU’s purview would be with surveillance and due process here, not transportation solutions. But they have been involved with transportation issues elsewhere, particularly the decriminalization of walking (ie. jaywalking) and its relation to racial profiling by law enforcement.

        Now, how would you feel if these same cameras were used to fine jaywalkers, walking against the light, etc…? Really think that’s so far fetched in the good ol’ USA?

        If you want a quicker cheap fix to an immediate problem, start with paint and plastic delineator posts. Getting companies that make money off ticketing involved and that operate outside the court system and its redress is trouble. Allowing cities to become reliant on ticketing as revenue stream is trouble.

        • I’m sure there are some issues, and I know various jurisdictions have had issues with corruption.

          I am privileged to come from a place where I don’t feel I really have to worry about that type of thing, so maybe it’s easier for me to support.

          As for if they used it to fine j-walking, I’d have just as much trouble with that, as I would if they did a police crackdown. Both are wrong headed and contrary to solving the problems we have.

    • Richard Bullington

      You can be very certain that Senator Nevile and Representative Humphrey are “unenthusiastic” about those “many ways to calm traffic”. So, given that the only tool the Republicans in the State legislature will allow is the hammer of camera enforcement, let there be nails.

  • DoTheTwerk

    You simply don’t pay the ticket. They have to personally serve you within 90 days and it never happens.


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