Red Light Offenders Could Lose Vehicle Registration Rights

Houston's red light camera system just became even more controversial. Under a new plan the city is considering, if you ignore that red light ticket — you might not be able to renew your vehicle registration. Laurie Johnson explains.
Red light camera citations cost $75. City officials say more than 25 percent of offenders just ignore the fine. Penalizing license tag renewals is Houston Mayor Bill White's solution to the problem. The registration denial program would allow city officials to flag a vehicle's state registration if they don't pay their fees.

But it will take cooperation with Harris County Tax-Assessor Collector Paul Bettencourt's office. And Bettencourt calls it a hugely complex technical issue.

"The problem is that there are major issues that we have documented, we've asked for a response from municipal courts. The municipal courts does not have the reputation for having a good database. So there are real legitimate concerns on technical and operational issues that have to be resolved and the way to do that is before you enter into a contract, not afterwards."

Bettencourt sent a letter to Houston Mayor Bill White, raising 15 technical concerns about the plan.

He says the city has not responded to that letter.

Houston councilmembers tabled the administration's ordinance, saying there are too many unanswered questions about how the system would work, who would enforce it and what repercussions it could have on the entire vehicle registration process.

They'll reconsider a vote on the measure next week.

Bettencourt says if he hasn't heard back from the mayor's office by then, he'll recommend the state reject the proposal.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...