By Betsy Dolan
A New Territory man who was involved in the effort to shut down red light cameras in Houston is accelerating his efforts to do the same thing to the red light cameras in Sugar Land. H.F. Van Der Grinten launched his petition drive and protest campaign at the Sugar Land Municipal Court on August 27 by attempting to persuade those who showed up for red light camera ticket hearings not to pay their fines.
“A motorist doesn’t have any idea how long the light stays yellow. You’re ticketing people for guessing wrong. It’s a crap shoot and it isn’t fair because the odds are in favor of the city and it is a losing game for the driver,” Van Der Grinten said.
Van Der Grinten handed out fliers to motorists who appeared before a hearing officer to protest their red-light tickets. The fliers offered three possible options to drivers who are interested in having their tickets dismissed and urged them not to pay the fines.
“The fine is virtually voluntary,” Van Der Grinten said. “The state has not authorized any penalty beyond the addition of a one-time late fee of $25. They can’t even bog down your motor vehicle registration. The late fee is all they have.”
Sugar Land city spokesman Doug Adolph said the city has no plans to throw out its five remaining red-light cameras.
“Sugar Land follows state law regarding traffic enforcement, including red light violations,” Adolph said. “The revenue from red light penalties is split between the state and a special city account to fund traffic safety programs, intersection improvements, public safety programs and traffic enforcement.”
Van Der Grinten, who is the founder of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras, has been fighting to have all of Sugar Land’s red light cameras removed since 2007. His issues with the camera program range from allegations of misused funds at the state level, to a possible conflict of interest involving the program’s administrator who is also one of the program’s six hearing officers. Van Der Grinten would like to collect 2,000 signatures on his petition to send a message to Sugar Land’s City Council that the current red light camera program isn’t fair to motorists.
“I just want the cameras to be fair,” Van Der Grinten said. “For instance, I’d like the amount of time the light is on yellow to be increased by one second. Otherwise what you have is a program that targets motorists for making the wrong choice. And that is nothing more than taxation by random selection.”