Red Light Cameras Finally Pay Off

For the first time since the red light camera program started — the revenue collected is finally being allocated. The funds are supposed to be distributed to regional trauma centers. But for the past two years the state held onto the money until now. Laurie Johnson reports.

Love 'em or hate 'em, red light cameras do one thing well, they generate millions of dollars in ticket revenue.

That money goes into the state's Trauma Compensation Program, which is supposed to be distributed to hospitals
to help pay for uncompensated care.

"The funds were not appropriated in the last biennium, so we had to go into this legislative session and get an authorization for the state to release those funds."

That's King Hillier, vice president of government relations for the Harris County Hospital District.

He says Ben Taub Hospital, the largest trauma center in the region, got the lion's share of the money.

"We're receiving these funds, approximately $4.6 million came into the Houston-area hospitals through the red-light program. And the Hospital District, we received $2.4 million for Ben Taub and approximately $280,000 for LBJ."

Another $1.1 million went to Memorial Hermann Hospital.

The red light camera money doesn't come close to recouping all the costs of trauma care for the uninsured. But Hillier says it eases some of the burden on taxpayers.

"We generate over $900 million in uncompensated care system-wide on an annual basis, and so this is one mechanism in which we're able to recoup some of those dollars to offset what the costs are to Harris County residents."

There are currently 69 red light cameras in Houston, with more intersections under consideration.

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...