Red Light Camera Violators Beware

Red light camera scofflaws may soon have a new penalty facing them. An agreement between Houston and Harris County could mean people who don't pay their red light camera tickets won't be able to renew their vehicle registration. Laurie Johnson reports.

Right now, if you run a red at one of the 70 Houston intersections equipped with a camera, you'll be mailed a ticket. It's a civil infraction and you're sort of on the honor system to pay the $75 fee.

But according to Houston Police Department statistics, 31 percent of violators don't pay.

HPD CFO Joseph Fenninger says Houston is working out an agreement with Harris County in which they flag vehicles which violate the camera program. Those flagged vehicles will not be eligible for registration renewals until the fines are paid.

"If they continue not to pay the fine, then when the car comes due they'll be getting a notice from the Texas Department of Transportation and on the renewal it will say 'city scofflaw' and on the back of the form it will advise them that you may not register your car until you pay the fine. So they will have had, by that time, 5-6 notices from the City of Houston and now they'll be hearing it from the Texas Department of Transportation: you need to pay your fine before you can register your car."

Delinquent red light camera tickets represent about $15.9 million of lost revenue for the city.

But Fenninger says that number reflects a larger societal problem.

"We need to say to them, look you know you can't continue to do this. You can't run through a red light and expect to do that with impunity, there are going to be consequences."

Houston councilmembers will vote on the agreement this week. It calls for the city to pay up to $36,000 in administrative costs to Harris County for the holds on vehicle registrations. County Commissioners will vote on the agreement next week. If approved, it will go into effect December 31st.

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...