BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The cameras that sit high on a post at busy intersections throughout Baton Rouge are the ones you don't want snapping a picture. If you have been caught on the wrong side of the lens, chances are you got a traffic ticket in the mail, along with a hefty fine.
"Right up the block here, didn't stop long enough at the light to take the right turn," recalled ticketed driver, Chris Luthringshausen. "It's absurd and I went back and looked at the video is even more absurd because I did stop."
For nearly a decade, 25 red light cameras at 17 intersections have photographed drivers throughout East Baton Rouge Parish. The city says the red light camera program is meant to change drivers' behavior. The idea is that if someone is watching, drivers are less likely to risk running a light or make other dangerous decisions. The city website cites a 2005 study that claims red light cameras reduce crashes by up to 30 percent.
However, the city also makes money from the cameras. Records show in 2016, tickets and fines brought in more than $2.3 million. In 2015, the program made more than $2.6 million. However, the revenue could be even higher. City officials admit there's no way to punish drivers who ignore a red light camera ticket, meaning many go unpaid.
"The Red-Light Program is certainly not one of our revenue streams that we look forward to carrying our budget. It certainly compliments our budget," said Mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome. "The overall motivation behind the red light program is safety."
When the cameras were installed in 2008, LSU crash data showed there were more than 4,876 wrecks at intersections in East Baton Rouge, with a total of 8,183 crashes overall. In the years since, the number of total crashes has increased. In 2016, the crash data recorded 4,994 intersection crashes with 11,294 total crashes throughout the parish.
"It's got little to do with safety and everything to do with the money grab because that's all I think the traffic cameras are," said State Representative Paul Hollis, R.
Mandeville lawmaker, Paul Hollis, wants to put the brakes on the red light cameras. He is proposing new legislation that would make automated traffic enforcement cameras illegal in the state.
"It's a violation of your basic constitutional rights and that's your right to confront your accuser. You get something in the mail and assessing this kind of fine then I believe they double it if you don't pay it. The bottom line is people in Louisiana want to rid our state of these for good," said Hollis.
Broome says she plans to take a close look at the program with other city leaders before the debate heads to the capitol. Session begins Monday, April 10.