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State lawmakers make right-turn enforcement illegal

The most contentious aspect of Farragut’s red-light camera traffic enforcement system has essentially been neutered by state legislators, as of early July.

“We have suspended giving the right-hand turn violations on red,” Town Photo Enforcement manager Ben Harkins said.

“Even though it’s still a violation of the law, according to the state legislature, what they passed means we’re not allowed to ticket people for breaking the law,” he added.

The state law allows municipalities to ticket from red-light cameras for right turns on red only if right turns on red at that intersection have been banned entirely.

It’s unclear how the new law will affect already existing state law, which remains unchanged, and declares it illegal for drivers to turn right on red without first coming to a “full and complete stop” behind the white stop bar or crosswalk.

The Town still is ticketing for drivers who run red lights driving straight through intersections or making left turns.

The Town put an end to its right turn on red ticketing after some confusion over whether already existing contracts — such as the contract between the Town and Redflex — would be “grandfathered,” and not immediately affected, or not.

The decision ultimately came down to the attorney general.

“The attorney general made a ruling two or three weeks ago that basically says even though it was apparently the intent of the state legislature to grandfather current contracts, it didn’t make it into the language of the bill.

“And the attorney general has ruled that [because] it didn’t make it into the language, even if it was the intent of the legislature, all the current contracts would be bound by the new law,” Harkins said.

The new law went into effect July 1.

Since that date, Harkins said the Town hasn’t issued any tickets for right turns on red.

“We have been treating it as if we were bound by the new law, because we didn’t know, and then when the attorney general made the new ruling, that may or may not be the final say on it ... but we are operating as if we are bound by the new law.

“We’ve suspended the right turn on red processing after the attorney general ruling,” Harkins said.

According to Harkins, the decision to stop ticketing for illegal right turns on red, rather than place signs prohibiting right turns on red altogether, was made for safety reasons, not financial ones.

The cost of putting up signs had nothing to do with the decision, he said. Rather, none of the intersections warranted eliminating all right turns on red, so they have not been eliminated.

“We are adhering to the law, just as we did before. And that’s the bottom line,” Harkins said.

Turning right on red without first stopping is still illegal — whether at a camera monitored intersection or not — and police can still ticket motorists who break the law, Harkins said.

Farragut’s traffic cameras are located at intersections at Smith Road and Kingston Pike, Campbell Station Road and Kingston Pike, Concord Road and Kingston Pike, and Campbell Station Road and Parkside Drive.

The Town’s contract with Redflex ends in 2014.


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