Connecticut moved Tuesday night towards automated traffic enforcement with the Senate voting 27-9 for a bill that would give municipalities a local option to use cameras to issue tickets for speeding and running red lights.
To win final passage in the last 24 hours of the 2023 session, proponents had to overcome concerns raised by the ACLU and NAACP about potential abuses and discriminatory enforcement.
“It’s something that has become a little bit contentious and controversial. And because of that, the Transportation Committee membership has really taken a hard look at what automated enforcement should look like in the state of Connecticut,” said Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, the committee co-chair.
Automated enforcement zones would have to be clearly marked, and fines would be capped at $50 for a first offense and $75 for a second offense regardless of a violator’s recorded speed. Speeders would have to be going at least 10 miles per hour over the limit to get an automated ticket.
The speed limit and red light cameras would be limited to school zones, defined pedestrian safety zones and other locations chosen by local officials and approved by the Office of State Traffic Administration. Violations would be handled like a parking ticket, with no points assessed to a driver’s license.
“I am concerned about Big Brother,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, one of eight Republicans to oppose the bill. “What we’re doing by this bill is we’re giving government yet one more tool to monitor our behavior.”
Sen. Saud Anwar of South Windsor was the only Democrat opposed.
Members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, who had been lobbied by the NAACP to oppose the bill, said minorities often are disproportionately affected by law enforcement but also by uncontrolled speeding in urban neighborhoods.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said he lives near an accident-prone intersection with frequent accidents, including one that left a car on his lawn and another that resulted in a near miss as he returned home with his young twins.
“We all have seen it and lived it,” said Sen. Jorge Cabrera, D-Hamden. “We have to do something.”
Last year was the deadliest on Connecticut roadways in decades, with the deaths of 239 drivers and passengers and 75 pedestrians in 2022.
Camera locations would have to get approved by the DOT every three years, and the local legislative body would have to authorize their use.
Sen. Herron Gaston, D-Bridgeport, said he has been assured by DOT officials they will work with civil rights groups to ensure the automated cameras are not used in a discriminatory fashion.
Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to sign the bill.