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.”