Rome’s next red light cameras are expected to be installed at what appears to be the city’s most dangerous intersection, according to wreck figures compiled by the Rome News-Tribune.
Although a date still has not been set for the installation of red light cameras at Martha Berry Boulevard and Veterans Memorial Highway, the intersection had more wrecks than any other of the city’s most dangerous crossings from January 2007 through February 2008.
Kirk Milam, city public services manager, said Rome is still awaiting approval from the state Department of Transportation to install the cameras.
The city’s only existing red light camera is on Turner McCall Boulevard and Hicks Drive near Kmart. That intersection is the second most dangerous intersection with 66 wrecks over the study period.
March 17, the City Commission approved installation of the second set of red light cameras.
According to the Rome Police Department’s monthly traffic accident reports from January 2007 through February 2008, the Martha Berry intersection recorded 69 wrecks.
Any wreck within approximately 100 feet of the intersection is included in the city police department count.
Nearly 70 percent of the accidents reported at that particular intersection resulted from drivers following too closely and only four were due to a red light violation.
The existing cameras help step up traffic enforcement at areas during specific times without requiring police to dedicate personnel to the task, said Maj. Travis Goss, with the Rome Police Department.
“You couldn’t imagine the manpower we’d need to monitor the lights and catch all those people who run these lights over and over again,” Goss said.
Now the camera snaps a picture of the vehicle, and its owner will get a fine in the mail based on the license plate number.
In 2000, before the state allowed municipalities to install red light cameras, Goss and a fellow officer traveled to Perry for a red light camera demonstration.
“During that demonstration we learned the primary goal was to reduce accidents or injuries,” Goss said, “that the city of Rome did not put these cameras up for profit.”
Goss said he believes once drivers become accustomed to going the proper speed limit through busy intersections, then they slow down and the need to run a red light doesn’t exist.
“You can stop at a reasonable amount of time without slamming on your breaks … people just don’t drive the speed limit,” he said.
Goss added that although the number of crashes at an intersection with red light cameras may not decrease, the severity of the wrecks do.
He said they are seeing more minor wrecks where bumpers are scuffed up rather than passenger-side impacts or head-on collisions at Turner McCall Boulevard and Hicks Drive.
Red-light camera background/costs
The city began photographing red-light runners at the intersection of Hicks and Turner McCall on July 12, 2004.
It previously paid up front for the expensive pieces of technology and equipment at Hicks and Turner McCall, an estimated $150,000 for each camera.
The cameras were paid for by a grant Rome received from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Milam said the city would lease the new red light cameras at Martha Berry and the bypass.
According to the city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, it will pay a fixed fee of $3,950 per month for each designated intersection approach at the loop intersection.
Unlike the cameras at Hicks and Turner McCall, which photograph only drivers running the light through Turner McCall, the new red light cameras will photograph drivers in every direction at Martha Berry and Veterans Memorial.
The fee, which is slightly higher than the $3,450 per month currently paid at the intersection of Hicks and Turner McCall, will include service and equipment costs.
When motorists are photographed running the red light, they each receive a $70 notice of violation.
Between 2005 and 2007, the city finance department has collected $557,635 through the red light fines.
Rome City Manager John Bennett said the city collected $33,780 in January and February this year. The revenue for March has not yet been calculated.
The costs of citations at the new intersection will remain the same.
After monthly expenses for maintenance and processing of the images are paid, the profit will still be used to pay for traffic safety improvement and traffic-related safety projects.
In a previous interview, Milam said the Sidewalk Improvement Program has funded things such as the construction project in front of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce and Carnegie Building on Broad Street, in a West Rome residential area on Brookwood Avenue where the city provided connectivity for West Central Elementary School, and construction on Elm Street and Lyons Drive.
Prior to 2007, the fine for running the red lights was $84.
The $14 add-on fees were sent to the state between August 2004 and July 2005, until the state attorney general’s office ruled law did not authorize the extra charge.
Bennett said the city refunded approximately $42,000 to drivers who originally paid the additional $14 for the citation, although the state did not reimburse the city.
The following is a list of the most dangerous intersections in the city of Rome. The wreck numbers are from January 2007 through February 2008:
Martha Berry Boulevard at Veterans Memorial Highway — 69
Turner McCall Boulevard at Hicks Drive/Riverbend — 66
Shorter Avenue at Redmond Road/Coosawattee — 65
Turner McCall Boulevard at Martha Berry/Second Avenue — 63
Redmond Circle at Garden Lakes Boulevard/Mathis Drive — 47
Shorter Avenue at Division Street — 25
Turner McCall Boulevard at Broad Street — 22
Second Avenue at Broad Street — 22
U.S. 411 at Callier Springs Road — 21
Ga. 53 at Veterans Memorial Highway — 21
Article by Lindsay Field, Rome News-Tribune Staff Reporter