Automated speed-enforcement cameras could become far more common across Colorado under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on Monday.
The legislation was supported by transportation safety advocates and Democratic lawmakers who argued more speed and red light enforcement cameras would lead to lower speeds and safer roads. Traffic deaths across the state hit a 40-year high in 2022 of 745 fatalities.
The bill allows local governments to use such cameras in more places, including busy – and deadly – arterial roads like Federal Boulevard in the Denver area. It also lifts a limit that required police officers to station speed cameras while they were in use. Denver officials have said they support the bill.
“We need help,” city traffic engineer Emily Gloeckner said in May. “We don’t have the resources to be out there with a huge level of enforcement.”
The cameras are unpopular with some motorists. But research suggests they are indeed useful tools in improving road safety.
“Speeding vehicles are one of the most common concerns we hear in the cycling community, and it is a major factor contributing to crashes and fatalities on Colorado's roads,” Bicycle Colorado Executive Director Peter Piccolo wrote in an email. “We are pleased that the Governor prioritized road safety and signed this bill.”
The sponsors said they crafted the bill to “thread the needle” of safety needs and civil liberties. For example: First-time, minor offenders of speed limits would only be issued a warning. The bill caps speeding fines at $40, though that can double for violations near schools. Signal violations would be limited to $75.
The bill also prevents a given government from “immobilizing” a vehicle if its owner doesn’t pay fines, and citations would not lead to points against a driver’s license.
Some Republicans worried the increased use of cameras would create a “surveillance state” and said local governments might use them to generate revenue.
“There's a perverse incentive to do these,” state Rep. Ken DeGraaf, R-Colorado Springs, said during a floor debate in May.
The Senate sponsor, however, told CPR News in March that the low fine amounts were chosen to fight the perception that the cameras were merely moneymakers.
“This isn't about revenue, this is about safety,” said state Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster.