The success of Phenix City’s first traffic light camera system, which automatically catches drivers running red lights, has moved the city to install such systems at two more intersections.
The first intersection to be installed, Broad Street and 13th Street, has seen a 36 percent drop in traffic accidents in the year since it was installed last April, according to Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith.
“We implemented the red light traffic camera program as a way to modify driver behavior and make our roadways safer,” Smith said in a release. “I’m very pleased that after just one year we’ve been able to reduce accidents by a significant amount. The goal of this program is safety, and the reduction in crashes indicates we’re making great progress.”
The city has now installed similar systems at Crawford Road and 17th Avenue and Summerville Road and Stadium Drive.
The cameras at the intersections capture the redlight offense in a high definition photograph, which includes the vehicle’s license tag number. If a police officer determines that an offense did take place, the owner of the vehicle is sent a citation.
The fine for being caught running a red light by the cameras is $100, about half the fine for being caught by police. About a third of the proceeds from these fines goes toward paying for and maintaining the camera systems, Smith said.
The fine is assessed against the owner of the vehicle, not necessarily the person who is driving it when the offense takes place. Drivers in borrowed or business vehicles would not even be aware that they’d been caught unless the vehicle owner contacts them.
The traffic cameras also assist police in determining who's at fault in accidents that occur near the cameras, or in determining if a citation was unduly given.
"If you've got to violate the law in order to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, or because a car is about to hit you, we're not going to cite you for that," Smith said last year when the first system was activated.
Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., which installed the Phenix City system, said in a press release that an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 14 cities operating red light photo enforcement programs between 2004 and 2008 experienced a 24-percent drop in deadly collisions.