Bureaucratic Mistake Delays Fate of Traffic Cameras in South Carolina

After South Carolina banned the use of traffic cameras to enforce speeding and red light laws this summer, a 13-person commission was supposed to meet to study the ethical and legal issues with camera use. An amendment to the ban required the commission– to be made up of legal, enforcement, and government representatives– to report their findings by November 1st. The commission never met. No meeting was ever called. Most of the blame for the commission’s failure to meet was placed on the lack of an appointed chairperson.

Traffic cameras are highly contentious in South Carolina. The ban on traffic camera use was enacted after the town of Ridgefield attempted to use the cameras to catch out-of-state speeders traveling down seven miles of Interstate 95. AAA Carolinas, citing South Carolina’s poor history with traffic safety, endorsed the cameras. However, the town was told its plan was illegal based on a 2006 general attorney ruling and 2009 law that effectively disallows photo enforcement. After the summer’s ban, the town abandoned their efforts to install traffic cameras.

A slim majority of states, 52%, use cameras to enforce speeding and/or red light laws, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Opponents of the cameras in other states have brought suits questioning the legality of the cameras. IIHS, however, supports the cameras, citing the dangers inherent in having a police car stop another vehicle in dense or high-speed areas and the impossibility of having police provide complete around-the-clock surveillance.

South Carolina, per law, plans on reconvening the commission to study traffic cameras. Governor Haley has appointed Glenn McHale, a leading Republican in the state, to oversee the commission.

Representative Bill Herbkersman (R-Bluffton), who voted for the ban, is supportive of a study: “We need to know the whole story, especially when it comes to something this controversial and something this important..

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