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City may ditch all red light cameras
by Joan Durbin
October 31, 2012 12:14 PM | 3766 views | 4 4 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roswell Transportation Director Steve Acenbrak had some eye-opening news for city council members last week. The cameras at two Roswell intersections that record license plate numbers of drivers running red lights have made no appreciable difference in the accident rates there.

In the 25 months prior to installing the red light cameras on Ga. Hwy 9 at Holcomb Bridge and Mansell roads, there were three crashes caused by red light running, Acenbrak said.

In the 22 months following the installation, there were also three crashes related to running the light..

“So there really is no change,” said Councilman Jerry Orlans.

“That’s what the data is going to tell you,” Acenbrak agreed.

The cameras were installed in 2006. “I thought we’d been told a number of times since then that this operation had led to a decrease in accidents,” said Councilman Kent Igleheart.

“I think what we were told was that the number of people running red lights had gone down significantly,” Mayor Jere Wood said.

The data was revealed when council members met with the transportation committee last week to discuss whether more cameras should be added at other intersections across the city.

But establishing the need for more cameras could be just as dicey as proving they have much effect on reducing accidents.

Even at six city intersections that have recorded the most crashes, “the subset of red light running crashes to the number of other accident reasons is very small,” Acenbrak said.

Wood recommended that no more cameras be installed and got a general consensus.

Told that the Georgia Department of Transportation had changed the standards required to approve cameras and that the city might not be able to prove a need for the existing cameras, council members also expressed a desire to terminate their use.

Should this happen, revenue from light-running citations will disappear from city coffers. It reached an all time high in 2008, when Roswell netted $835,253 for the year. That figure dropped to $630,795 the following year and fell to $100,463 in 2010.

In the past two years the city actually finished in the hole after paying the vendor who handles the collections. The cameras weren’t in use for much of that time due to construction at the Holcomb Bridge Road/Ga. Hwy 9 intersection, according to Roswell Communications Manager Julie Brechbill.

Council members have always maintained that the cameras were there solely to improve safety at the two intersections. That’s why some say the data presented last week may signal the cameras’ doom.

“I’m stunned, but if the numbers don’t work, it’s never been about the revenue side,” Igleheart said.
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Michael Hadden
November 01, 2012
We should expect more from our mayor, council and DOT.

Using data from two cameras to determine whether they have no impact on safety is like looking at an overweight person eating a salad and determining that salads make you fat. The statistics are out there. Not from the National Motorists Association though. Here's one from a study of 14 cities that installed cameras in the mid-00's.

"Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers concluded that the rate of fatal red-light running crashes in cities with the cameras was 24 percent lower than it would have been without them. The study compared crash data collected in 2004 to 2008 with the period between 1992 and 1996 — before the 14 cities had any cameras."

Based on their calculations, "if red light cameras had been in place for all 5 years in all 99 US cities with populations over 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided."

I'm not a fan of having cameras everywhere and those flashes are freaking annoying (there are better camera systems) but I am a fan of people not dying and getting maimed in car crashes.

I do agree with James' point that it's about better engineering as well. When you design an intersection where drivers are forced to PAY ATTENTION when they travel through the intersection, you will reduce severe crashes. Narrower lanes and slower speeds accomplish this.

One other point.. it makes total sense that revenue would be decreasing.. Drivers are PAYING MORE ATTENTION at the intersection. A small sample of intersections may not have shown a reduction in accidents but it has most definitely shown a reduction in people running red lights which is the actual key driver behind accidents at intersections. Don't look at the accidents, look at what causes the accidents. Then make your decision on whether they are helping make our city safer.
James C. Walker
November 02, 2012
For Michael: Cameras do reduce the red light violation rate, but usually by less than corrected engineering. Most camera programs report 25% to a bit over 50% reductions, often calculated after a year or so of operation. Corrected yellows will almost always reduce violations by 60% to 90 % in one or two days.

What most people do not realize is that the vast majority of people who get camera tickets when the engineering is bad present almost zero risk to cause crashes. About 60% of violations are in the first 1/2 second of red and about 80% in the first full second. Assuming the light has at least a short one second all red interval (best practices today almost everywhere), those drivers who trip the red in the first second will clear the intersection before the cross traffic can possibly arrive. This is a key part of the business plans for the camera companies and their business-partner cities.

As to the statistics, a careful reading of the sources of the stats on our website will reveal that almost all of them come from unbiased academic, government, or investigative reporter sources - people and groups that are not in the revenue stream from red light cameras.

The IIHS on the other hand is squarely in the revenue stream from traffic tickets because in many states their member insurance companies can issue premium surcharges to ticket recipients. The IIHS study Michael refers to was thoroughly debunked by academic researchers at the University of South Florida.
James C. Walker
November 01, 2012
Red light cameras were never about safety, they are are about money. When Georgia passed a law a few years ago requiring safer, longer yellow intervals on the lights the numbers of tickets fell drastically. Many cameras were removed right after the new law took effect, because the profits went away.

True improvements in traffic safety come from better engineering, NOT from ticket cameras installed to make profits. See the science on our website about red light and speed cameras.

James C. Walker, National Motorists Association
Roswell Resident
November 01, 2012
Interesting article -- the quote in here states... “I’m stunned, but if the numbers don’t work, it’s never been about the revenue side,” Igleheart said.

However in another article posted the same day @ repaving a road in another part of the city:

“Right now we’ve got control of it,” Councilman Jerry Orlans said. “If we’re going to spend the money to repave why not keep control? Maintenance is minimal. We can probably make that up in [traffic] citations.”

One city official stating that we make money by issuing citations and another saying red light cameras were never about bringing in revenue....

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