Federal judge dismisses red light camera lawsuit

A Federal District Judge on March 2 dismissed a lawsuit brought against 18 cities, including Bonney Lake, alleging that the cities charged too much for tickets given out by cameras at red lights and other traffic zones.

More than 40 drivers joined the suit, claiming the fines given out were excessive. According to the dismissal order, the cities charged between $101 and $124 per infraction.

The plaintiffs argued that the fines could not be more than a parking infraction, or about $20, based on a reading of state law, but Judge John C. Coughenour in Seattle ruled that a “more plausible reading” of the law may set fines at or below the maximum fine for parking infractions, which he cited as $175-$250 for parking in a fire lane.

“The Code grants municipalities flexibility in determining fine levels, and that the fines are not excessive,” he wrote.

Bonney Lake only used the cameras in school zones on Locust Avenue near Bonney Lake Elementary and 104th Street East near Bonney Lake High School, but according to City Administrator Don Morrison the city in 2008 terminated its contract with Nestor, the company that owned and operated the cameras for the city.

Nestor was bought by American Traffic Systems, who was named as a defendant in the suit with the cities and Redflex Traffic Systems.

Morrison said the technology worked well and was effective in slowing down drivers, but that there were complaints about the back office support, including human error in transposing license plate numbers.

“Because of complaints about customer support, the council decided to cancel it,” Morrison said.

Morrison said the cameras also had the desired effect of slowing down drivers.

“A couple of years later, the traffic on Locust is a lot slower than it used to be,” Morrison said.

Morrison also said that the program funded itself and additional monies were used to fund other traffic improvements.

Morrison said because the city no longer uses the cameras the judge’s dismissal is more comforting than anything.

“We’re just pleased that’s something we don’t have to worry about,” he said.