Tennessee outlaws speed limit cameras, local cameras grandfathered-in

A new law in Tennessee will make speed limit cameras illegal beginning in July. Union City, Tennessee, began installing traffic cameras five years ago, and any driver caught driving 11 miles over the limit is issued a $50 fine. 

A year after Discovery Park of America opened there in late 2013, the fines the city collected from the cameras more than doubled to $244,000. Although they’re due to be outlawed in the state, drivers will still see these cameras for years to come.

Mary Nita Bondurant with Discovery Park says those driving to the park can be caught by surprise. She says she doesn’t believe the cameras are the right way to greet guests, and many visitors send mail questioning their speeding tickets. 

Bondurant says the number of people visiting Discovery Park grows every month, and the speed cameras will harm what good the park does for the city. 

“We really don’t want it to be associated with or wonderful learning experience here,” Bondurant says.

The Union City speed cameras will be grandfathered in under the new law. Union City Mayor Terry Hailey says the city renewed the camera contracts through 2017 before the bill passed. He says the cameras tend to catch more out-of-town visitors than locals who have learned where the cameras are.

Hailey says, although he’s always been adamantly against the speed cameras, he recognizes how the city has benefited from the added revenue and safety protections. He says Discovery Park could be the difference in separating what the cameras do for the community.

The law does not include red light cameras, and other cities that have the speed camera contracts are also grandfathered in.

Cameras in school zones and S-curves are exempt from the law, which takes effect July 1.

Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt from Weakley County sponsored the bill to outlaw the cameras because he thought it will better help the local economy. 

“For all practical purposes, this is a tax that’s being levied on the citizens, and they’re not benefiting from it,” Holt says. “There’s a huge economic loss associated with these machines.”

Holt said he first wanted to write the bill when he visited Discovery Park and saw the speed cameras there.

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