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Hill trying to change right-on-red law

State Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) is taking aim at red light cameras with a bill he is sponsoring that would change the law requiring drivers to stop before making a right on red at a traffic light.
Currently, motorists are required to come to a complete stop before turning right on red. Hill is proposing, instead, drivers be required to merely yield before making such a turn.
The bill indicates drivers would be required to stop if other vehicles are coming from the left or right on the other roadway or pedestrians have entered the crosswalk. However, if drivers are certain no other vehicles or pedestrians are approaching, then they would only need to slow down while entering the intersection to make a right on red.
Hill said he sponsored the bill in the House after receiving several complaints from constituents who had received tickets from the traffic light cameras for not coming to a complete stop before turning right on red.
“The overall goal of this bill is to get some standardization and consistency of the rules of red light cameras across the state,” Hill said in a phone interview on Monday. “Right now, it’s subjective. You can have three pairs of eyes looking at traffic video and they could each say something different about whether someone rolled through it or came to a complete stop.”
Hill said he did not believe the law change would impact road safety.
“When you are yielding, you are still looking,” he said. “You still have to slow down. You still have to look at what is coming. It’s not just giving people the right to keep on trucking.”
But at least one police officer disagrees.
Maj. Natalie Hilton, of the Jonesborough Public Safety Department, said she believes the change could mean more traffic crashes.
“If you are making a right on red, that means somebody else has a green light,” Hilton said. “And if you are just yielding, you’re increasing the risk of not seeing that car coming that has the green light. The only way you are going to be certain that a car is not coming is to come to a complete stop.”
Hilton also argued that the change in the law would actually make the ticketing process more subjective.
“It’s leaving us to determine whether it was a yield or whether it was a driver blatantly ignoring a red light,” Hilton said. “It leaves a giant gray area. With a traffic law, things need to be black and white.”
Hilton said the traffic cameras in Jonesborough currently operate with a threshold that, if drivers remain below, will not issue a ticket.
“If they were actually yielding, at say 5 miles per hour, the camera is not going to get them because we have that threshold set,” she said. “But I’ve got cars that make a right hand turn at a red light going 20 to 25 miles per hour. They’re not stopping or yielding at all.”
While the bill was scheduled to be discussed in the Transportation Subcommittee of the state legislature this week, Hill said it will likely be set aside for a similar bill proposing traffic camera regulations or rewritten before being passed.