Because of its proximity to us and its population concentration, the state of Georgia is a good place to look at trends that will most likely make their way to North Carolina. Or not. Remember the brouhaha we went through a few years ago about red light cameras, the pole-mounted devices that snap a picture of your license plate if you are in the intersection after the light has changed to red? I think we can stop worrying about that trend ever reaching N.C. in large numbers, as Georgia cities are removing the cameras from their “safety” arsenal. In fact, traffic cameras of all kinds are under siege across the country.
Towns and cities all across Georgia are scrapping the programs. Atlanta suburbs Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee all have put the program in park while they review the results, or have announced plans to take the cameras down altogether.
For one thing, rear-end collisions increase greatly when red light cameras are in use. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a 49 percent increase (from 65 to 97) in rear-enders at traffic camera intersections in my hometown of Marietta from 2004-05, when the cameras were installed. The town of Duluth saw a 21 percent increase in accidents, from 75 to 91, between March 2004 and February 2005, as compared with March 2005 and February 2006. In that same time period, accidents in Lilburn increased from 37 to 46, or 24 percent.
Rumors went around that small towns were lowering the number of seconds the light stayed amber to nail more drivers, though none of them have admitted to doing so. Still, in response to citizen complaints, Georgia enacted a state law on Dec. 31, 2008, mandating the yellow phase of the lights last one second longer at every camera-enforced intersection in the state. In January 2008, red light cameras in Lilburn issued almost 1,500 tickets at three intersections. After adding the single second to the yellow light phase, January 2009 saw the number of camera-issued tickets dive to about 300, according to City Manager Bill Johnsa. Snellville’s trio of cameras nailed almost 3,000 drivers in December of 2005. This February saw that number fall to under 500.
Officials of these cities insist the focus was on safety, not revenue generation. But still, now that they are not making money — while presumably still making motorists safe — cities are taking them down.
Other electronic traffic controls in the Southeast are facing tough times, too. In Louisiana, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department recently cut ties with Redflex Traffic Systems, citing a series of incidents. Redflex employed a speed camera for the parish, a radar system that takes a picture of — and mails a ticket to — speeders. Back in April, the parish had to give refunds to 2,488 ticketed drivers because the company had set the van up in a place where the speed limit changed from 70 mph to 60.
Following several other incidents, including having the “speeder van” parked illegally on private property, the final straw came when Redflex parked the van on the property of the Carroll Baptist Church in Walker, La. Church officials had the van towed. In a statement, the sheriff’s office said, “It was brought to the attention of sheriff’s officials that improper comments were made to the towing company employees. … Due to a recent series of events regarding Redflex and its representatives, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office is discontinuing its participation in the parish’s photo enforcement program commonly referred to as ‘the speeder van.’”
The Web site, photoenforced.com/nc.html shows the red light camera locations in the Tar Heel State. So far, they’re all down east, having not made it west of Gaston County. Let’s hope our local leaders take note of these issues with electronic public safety enforcement and do not open that messy can of worms.
Article by Dave Russell, CitizenTimes.com
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