KAILUA-KONA — A bill proposing a red light detector systems program overcame its first hurdle Thursday, clearing a joint judiciary and transportation committee, and is now waiting to be heard by the Committee on Ways and Means.
There has been overwhelming support for Senate Bill 663 – from state departments to county officials, to bicycle organizations down to the private citizen.
Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye (D-North Hawaii) is a co-sponsor of the measure. The purpose of the bill is to establish a photo red light detector systems program to deter motorists from running red lights and free police officers to respond to priority calls.
Hawaii County’s Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was one of the many that submitted testimony in favor of the measure.
“Record numbers of pedestrians, as welt as people biking and driving are injured or killed on our streets by irresponsible drivers. Everyone has the right to be safe on Hawaii’s roads,” prosecutor’s office testimony states.
Only two testimonies submitted opposed the bill — the Office of the Public Defender and an individual.
“Although we believe that strict enforcement of our traffic laws results in a reduction of traffic accidents and increased traffic safety, we do not believe this measure appropriately balances the rights of the accused violators with the public’s interest in traffic safety,” testimony from the Public Defender’s office states.
The Committee on Transportation passed the measure with amendments by a 3-2 vote. The Committee on Judiciary passed it with amendments 4-1 with one reservation.
Amendments to the bill include $200,000 funding for 2019-20 and 2020-21 from the State Highways Division, insertion of fines, language that includes who sees and uses the photos taken and language that includes after a certain period of time the photos will be deleted.
According to Hawaii Police, from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2018, there were 110 red light violations islandwide; 44 of those occurred in the department’s Kona District, which comprises the physical areas of North and South Kona. Maj. Robert Wagner said a red light violation is defined as when a motorist enters an intersection when the light is red.
“If you enter with yellow and leave when red, that is not a red light violation,” he said.
Senate Bill 663 outlines numerous benefits to enacting the program. Not only are streets safer, but police officers are freed from “time-consuming duties” of traffic enforcement and have time to respond to priority calls. Also violators are less likely to go to court because of the photograph, which can be used as evidence against them.
A date for the bill to be heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means has not yet been set.