Cameras Sought at Dicey Crossing in Jackson County Georgia

At any given time, three Jefferson police officers are patrolling the Jackson County city’s 26 square miles, so Chief Joe Wirthman is looking for electronic help to keep an eye on the most dangerous intersection in town.

Wirthman has proposed installing red-light cameras, now used in more than 120 Georgia cities, to catch drivers who disobey traffic signals at U.S. Highway 129’s interchange with Interstate 85.

The idea has drawn the ire of some Jefferson residents who say the chief is more concerned with raising money than improving driver safety.

“I don’t get why people are complaining,” Wirthman said. “If you plan on obeying the law, then you don’t have anything to worry about.”

The Jefferson City Council plans to vote at 7 tonight on whether to negotiate a contract with red-light camera installer LaserCraft and whether to pursue state Department of Transportation approval for the project.

The interchange features two of the most heavily traveled intersections in Jackson County and ranks among the most dangerous. In 2008, 69 wrecks have been recorded at the spot – most caused by people running red lights. During a brief study in October, cameras caught 46 drivers running red lights during one 10-hour period.

Although most agree the police department should do something to make the interchange safer, some citizens remain leery of the cameras.

“I don’t really agree with the cameras part of it,” said Brandon Kouba of Jefferson. “I feel it’s an invasion of privacy. Ideally, I’d like them to just put more cops out there. … If there are cops there, you know a cop is watching you. With a camera, you don’t know who’s watching.”

While several transportation studies show red-light cameras can lead to more rear-end wrecks, they do prevent drivers from running red lights, said Athens-Clarke police Maj. Mike Shockley.

The Athens-Clarke Police Department added red-light cameras at the intersection of Lexington, Gaines School and Cherokee roads in Southeastern Clarke County in 2005, and put up a second set at the Westside intersection of West Broad Street, Alps Road and Hawthorne Avenue at the beginning of 2007.

Since then, the number of wrecks at the Lexington-Gaines School-Cherokee intersection has dropped drastically, Shockley said.

When police install cameras at one intersection, drivers assume they’re everywhere, he said.

Athens has seen fewer red-light runners and fewer collisions across town, even though those two intersections are the only two equipped with enforcement cameras, Shockley said.

“We have seen a reduction in accidents, and we’ve seen a reduction in violators,” he said. “That’s just kind of common sense, because once you get a ticket in the mail, you’re less likely to run the light.”

Police don’t yet know how many tickets the camera at West Broad Street tallied this year, but they expect to see fewer citations and crashes when they audit the numbers in January, Shockley said.

Together the cameras at the two intersections were responsible for more than 14,000 citations during 2007. Athens-Clarke charges $70 for a camera ticket and doesn’t report the violation to the state Department of Drivers Services or to a driver’s insurance company.

About 90 percent of drivers send in a check to pay the fine, while others sign an affidavit swearing they weren’t driving when the car ran the light. Some ignore the ticket, and a judge issues a bench warrant for the person’s arrest.

Detractors say it’s those hassle-free $70 fines that are driving Wirthman to invest in the cameras.

That’s certainly part of it, Wirthman concedes.

Athens-Clarke’s cameras generated more than $1 million in revenue from 2005 through 2007. After paying for the cameras, their annual maintenance and a clerk to prepare the citations, the police department made nearly $570,000 during those three years.

That money went into buying new communications equipment for Athens’ patrol officers. Depending on how the local ordinance is written, a city or county can use the revenue to cover any government expense, Shockley said.

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Monday, December 22, 2008, Article by Merritt Melancon

Speeding ticket in Jackson County Georgia?

Woman In Receipt of Red Light Ticket in GA Wasn’t There At The Time…

A Florida grandmother received a red light camera ticket in the mail from Atlanta Georgia, notifying her of a violation, caught on camera. The only problem with this ticket is that she hadn’t visited the state of GA for over 35 years, and the photo that was sent along with the ticket showed a black pontiac and Evelyn Singer owns a white Acura! The name, address and vehicle on the ticket were, however, correct.

How often this type of “mix-up” seems to occur isn’t easy to research, as many consumers probably do not bother to examine the photo carefully if the accompanying information regarding the vehicle and owner is correct. The quaity of the red light camera photos can sometime be “questionable”, to say the least.

Singer, aka, the alleged red light runner, wasn’t going to just put up and pay the fine. She sent a certified letter and called Atlanta Georgia Traffic court numerous times attempting to get through to someone, even after being put on hold and repeatedly disconnected.

FInally, she was told that this would be taken care of and she would not be held responsible for the red light violation fine in Atlanta. Lesson to be learned here is to always confirm the photo and information, including alleged location of the violation, don’t just shut up and pay up!

Traffic ticket in Georgia?

Georgia Governor Signs Red-Light Camera Restriction

A new law in Georgia is intended to make it tougher for local governments to install red-light enforcement cameras. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The cameras that are used in more than 20 cities and counties across the state snap pictures of red-light runners or speeders’ vehicle tags. Tickets are mailed to the vehicles’ owners, regardless of who was driving at the time.

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill into law allowing cities and counties to continue to use automated cameras at intersections, but put new restrictions on them. The new law, previously HB77, requires local governments to get permits from the Georgia Department of Transportation to put up cameras.

Localities with existing programs have until January 2010 to obtain permits for use of the ticketing machines.

Cities will be required to provide the DOT with annual reports on the devices. Local governments also are prohibited from decreasing the duration of traffic lights’ amber time.

Supporters say the changes are intended to ensure the cameras are for safety and not for filling local coffers.

Motorists who are issued photo tickets can avoid fines by sending in forms certifying that they were not driving when their vehicle was captured on camera running a red light.

Story by Keith Goble, Land Line Magazine

Georgia Traffic Ticket Attorneys

Danger Brings 2nd Red Light Camera in Rome Georgia

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

GA Traffic Laws

GA Officials Keep Eye On Traffic Cameras In Augusta

In the early morning hours Tuesday, traffic engineers, police and the occasional helicopter pilot gathered in Westside High School’s auditorium to watch thousands of Masters Tournament ticket-holders flood Richmond County’s roadways on their way to the Augusta National.

Ten slow-scan cameras fed a steady stream of images showing bumper to bumper traffic to flat-screen TVs set up inside the makeshift base off Washington Road.

It’s from there team members monitor the traffic level and adjust signal times to let more cars through, according to Richmond County Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell. But keeping the public abreast of any changes is their most important task.

“The more information you can get out to the public, the better they can make route decisions,” Mr. Cassell said.

Traffic officials said Tuesday that, for the most part, traffic was running smoothly.

“They’re a little better than this time yesterday,” Georgia Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer James “Jimmy” Smith said Tuesday. “More people seem to be using the right-turn lanes into Stanley (Drive).”

The team continues to adjust to changes brought on by the introduction of a 2,500 space parking lot off Stanley Drive this year. An electronic sign was recently moved to let drivers know there are now two right turn lanes into the parking lot, Mr. Cassell said.

It has been about 10 years since Mr. Smith and other engineers first sat down with Richmond County officials and convinced them to let the DOT help monitor Masters traffic. Before, signal control was the responsibility of sheriff’s deputies, who stood near the lights and changed times manually.

“They couldn’t coordinate, because they weren’t able to see the other signal,” said Mr. Smith, who remembers traffic so bad that at one point in the early 1990s it stretched from Washington Road to the Belair Road exit on I-20.

Now, with the aid of computer software programs and up-to-date reports from Georgia State Patrol helicopters that fly over the thoroughfares, the entire corridor can be monitored and controlled, Mr. Smith said.

“A couple of weeks ago we were talking about it and I said if we do our job, nobody will know we were there, and if we don’t, everybody will know my middle name,” he said.

Adam Folk, Staff Writer

Traffic Ticket in August GA?

Georgia Senate Restricts, Maine Rejects Red Light Cameras

The Georgia state Senate yesterday voted in favor of a measure that adds significant restrictions to the use of red light cameras while a legislative panel in Maine ensured automated ticketing machines remained banned from that state’s roads.

Although Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) would rather see the devices banned outright, his measure represents the next best thing in a state that has authorized their operation for several years. If adopted by the House and signed by the governor, cities with existing camera programs would have two years to show “demonstrable evidence that there is a genuine safety need” at each of the intersections where the devices are installed. Traffic engineering studies would also be performed at each location to determine whether alternatives to the cameras might improve safety. The state Department of Transportation serves as the final judge by issuing operational permits.

All new requests for camera installations in the state would face the same justifications in order to obtain a permit from the state. Loudermilk’s bill gives the department has the right to inspect and audit any photo enforcement program and can enforce compliance by revoking the permit to operate cameras if a city refuses to cooperate.

The bill also requires a second red light camera ticket notice to be sent by certified mail to ensure that the vehicle owner actually receives the notice before being judged guilty. Current law only requires one notice sent by regular mail.

In Maine, the state legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation yesterday voted to kill a proposal by state Representative Donald Pilon (D-Saco) that would have allowed cameras to operate throughout the state. No committee member voted in favor of the proposal.

Article from

Georgia Traffic Laws

Red Light Cameras Stay At Eight Atlanta GA Intersections

The Atlanta City Council gave the green light Monday to keeping red-light cameras at eight intersections.

The city, however, may find it more difficult getting additional cameras approved.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require cities and counties to obtain a permit from the Georgia Department of Transportation before installing any cameras. Under the proposed law, any local agency that did not obtain a permit would forfeit its right to fines from traffic tickets at those intersections and the state could collect the money. The Georgia Senate is reviewing the bill. Some state lawmakers unsuccessfully drafted legislation last year attempting to outlaw the cameras.

The city issued 26,944 tickets for red light violations between November 2005 and December 2007. During that time, the city collected nearly $2.1 million from fines, but spent $1.35 million on various fees. City leaders insist the cameras are in place to improve traffic safety, not get money.


Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta GA Traffic Ticket Attorney

Red Light Cameras In Rome Georgia – Its About The Money

It looks like Red Light Cameras will become the norm in Rome Georgia, the article below from the Rome News Tribune details why these cameras won’t be going away any time soon.

Rome, Georgia – ROME’S city government is apparently capable of changing its tune just as fast as it can make its traffic lights go from green to red.

When Rome installed its first automated, ticket-writing, red-light camera at the intersection of Turner McCall Boulevard and Hicks Drive back in 2004, the rationale was all about traffic safety, averting injury, perhaps even saving lives.

Now, with a second one on the way for the Martha Berry Boulevard/Veterans Memorial Highway intersection, the rationale seems to have become that such devices make Rome a lot of money via the $70 fines generated.

Kirk Milam, the city’s public-services manager, appeared to admit as much in saying “(the cameras) have been effective and met our expectations. It doesn’t eliminate the violations … we still have violations that occur on a regular basis and that’s the purpose of the camera, to try and catch the violations.”

The safety rationale is out the window since accidents at the McCall-Hicks crossroads have actually gone up since the cameras went in (58 in 2005, the first full year of operation, to 72 in 2007).

TO BE SURE, the wrecks may (or may not) be “less bad” than previously, the assumption being there would be more rear-end collisions (because of the guy ahead of you slamming on his brakes to avoid a ticket) and fewer T-bone wrecks (where the other driver blows through the red light and puts his radiator into your driver’s seat). Some national studies don’t bear this out.

Still, the entire “safety” defense is now dubious. That’s not the case with the bottom-line motive. Revenues in Rome went up from $172,094 in 2005 to $205,431 in 2007.

Even more disturbing is that Rome appears to be looking at this as some sort of new city franchise operation. It’s already mentioned future installation of several more such red-light traps … pardon, cameras.

Rome paid cash for the first installation (using grant money). Now the plan has turned into a sort of rent-a-camera operation.

The city plans to contract with Redflex Traffic Systems of South Melbourne, Australia and then pay a monthly fee for the cameras, installation and maintenance with any “profit” after that going to Rome. By the way, you might want to consider investing in Redflex, which now has more than 1,000 of these cameras running. It has 86 million shares of stock outstanding and its profits are increasing an average of 100 percent a year.

ROME APPARENTLY has discarded safety as an argument because it has found something that it can sell: The bad driving habits of its residents and visitors.

While we are admirers of capitalism and free enterprise, isn’t this a bit like profiting from the wages of sin, much as operating a house of ill repute?

This newspaper has opposed these red-light cameras from the git-go, though for the more traditional reasons of their being a violation of due process in several ways. First of all, it is the owner of the car that gets the ticket, not the driver whom the cameras can’t identify. Second, the defendant can hardly call a camera to the stand and cross-examine it if willing to challenge the ticket.

State Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, who represents a portion of Floyd County, has been trying to get a bill through the General Assembly outlawing these robotic cops. House Speaker Glenn Richardson would like for the state to grab off most of the proceeds, figuring that will chill municipal enthusiasm for making a fast-ticket franchise out of poor driving. West Virginia has already banned the devices, as have a number of cities.

IN FACT, opposition to these devices for any number of reasons — rights violations, don’t stop accidents and so forth — has grown so large and organized that there’s actually an Internet site devoted to keeping up with developments in this citizen uprising against Robocops.

Go to, which subtitles itself as “a journal of the politics of driving,” to keep current on developments. Recently it featured an article about insurance companies fighting a proposal in Alabama to deny them “the ability to use photo tickets to increase profit.” Alabama wants to legalize traffic cameras (they can be used to generate speeding tickets, too) but bar the tickets from being used to raise motorists’ insurance rates.

Most states, like Georgia, don’t add “points” against a driver’s license because of such robot-issued tickets for the very reason that motorists can’t cross-examine an electronic circuit on the witness stand. However, several of them (California, Illinois, Arizona) permit insurance companies to use the same tickets as black marks against a driver’s record for purposes of raising their rates.

THOSE UNOBTRUSIVE, near-invisible cameras on posts at the Turner McCall/Hicks intersection are actually tentacles of a monster that appears intent of grabbing control of the highways and streets. Or maybe, the way Rome is going at it, perhaps they could be called drive-thru windows to your wallet.

Article from the Rome News Tribune,

Georgia Traffic Light Cameras To Stay

ATLANTA GA – It looks like traffic-light cameras in Georgia will be safe for at least another year.

A Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on a new version of legislation giving the state a role in deciding where local governments could place traffic-light cameras within their jurisdictions.

But the hearing came to an abrupt halt when a motion to reconsider the bill, which the committee had tabled last year, failed for lack of a second.

Traffic-light cameras have been cropping up more and more at busy intersections across the state in recent years, giving police agencies a way to crack down on lead-footed drivers without having to stretch their personnel budgets.

However, as the cameras have generated more and more revenue, some lawmakers have begun to question whether local governments have become too reliant on those fines.

“If we are going to sue red-light cameras, it should be for safety purposes, not revenue purposes,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk told the Senate Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

Loudermilk, R-Cassville, introduced a bill in the House last year to abolish red-light cameras in Georgia.

But as it made its way through the lower chamber, it was changed substantially to keep the cameras but require local governments to share the revenue from fines with the state.

A new Senate version of he bill presented on Tuesday also would require local governments to obtain a permit from the state Department of Transportation for each red-light camera they plan to install.

Loudermilk told committee members that he liked the changes, but he still was concerned that traffic-light cameras violate motorists’ constitutional rights.

He said owners of cars photographed running red lights receive tickets in the mail charging them with the violation, regardless of whether they were actually driving the vehicle at the time.

“In a legal sense, that can be interpreted as a presumption of guilt,” he said. “It puts the burden of proof on the accused, not the government.”

Loudermilk also pointed to cases where motorists in a funeral procession have been fined based on red-light camera photographs.

“The technology is not infallible,” he said.

Loudermilk’s testimony brought a sharp response from Sen. John Douglas, R-Covington, a strong supporter of red-light cameras.

“What’s your solution to having people running red lights and killing each other in intersections?” he asked Loudermilk. “Do we put a cop on each corner?”

It was Douglas who made the motion last year to table the bill.

Before Loudermilk had completed his testimony on Tuesday, Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, the committee’s chairman, was reminded that the bill was still on the table and, thus, couldn’t be acted upon.

Hawkins called for a motion to remove the bill from the table and received one. But when no one on the committee seconded the motion, the bill died and the meeting ended.

The City of Albany, Ga received grant funds to install traffic cameras at Jefferson and Pine but technical problems with the equipment prevented the police department from using the cameras.

Dave Williams, Albany Herald

The Georgia Traffic Lawyer will handle traffic violations in all counties in Georgia.

Red Light Cameras in Athens-Clarke County GA Cash In

Athens-Clarke County in Georgia has raked in more than $1 million in three years from a camera enforcement system that nabs red-light runners.

Launched at one intersection in 2005 and expanded to a second intersection last year, the camera system was touted as a break-even proposition. Athens-Clarke police told county commissioners that tickets would spike early on but drop as drivers caught on and slowed down.

Although police plan for as many as 15 intersections to come under the lens one day, grand jurors who studied the camera system are concerned the government might use the system as a cash cow.

The county collected $1,035,831 since 2005 from tickets sent to motorists who whose cars and trucks were caught in photographs running red lights on Lexington Road and West Broad Street, according to annual reports that by law the police department must make to the governor’s office by Jan. 31 every year.

After subtracting operating costs, salaries and other expenses to maintain the cameras, the county had a three-year balance of $569,047 in the red-light camera program as of Feb. 1, according to the Athens-Clarke Finance Department.

“There was a concern to the effect of, is this something that’s going to be treated by the Athens-Clarke County government as a way to supplement income or is the purpose really to reduce accidents,” said Richard Seigler, a member of the Clarke County grand jury that last month recommended the county limit red light cameras to five locations, tops. 

“Obviously, we don’t want cameras at every intersection in Clarke County, but there are a few others that could probably use them,” Seigler said. “There was no official study done by the grand jury to identify intersections, it was just a matter of conversation that there seemed to be a lot of wrecks at such and such intersections.” 

Currently, the cameras photograph traffic heading east and west on Lexington Road at the Gaines School-Cherokee Road intersection as well as traffic going in three directions at West Broad Street and Alps Road: East and west on Broad, and north on Alps at the intersection. Those two intersections have the highest accident rate in Athens. 

The camera system isn’t meant to generate revenue, but to reduce injuries, protect officers and allow police “to redirect our scarce resources to other pressing, critical problems in the county,” said police Chief Jack Lumpkin.

But if the cameras continue to be money-makers over time, that is fine with District 5 Commissioner David Lynn, who said excess revenue can let the county expand the camera system beyond the current two locations and fund other safety initiatives.with District 5 Commissioner David Lynn, who said excess revenue can let the county expand the camera system beyond the current two locations and fund other safety initiatives.

“These things typically have a spike in revenue at the beginning, then dwindle down because they accomplish what they set out to do, and they’re typically not huge revenue generators in the long haul,” Lynn said. “But if they bring in more money than what it costs to operate them, and it’s used for public safety, that’s fine with me.”

Though signs warn drivers about the cameras, the number of tickets issued continue to climb: from 1,791 in 2005 to 1,999 in 2006 and to 14,299 last year, when police added the cameras on West Broad Street and Alps Road.

Still, police say that drivers will learn over time.

“It is anticipated that as driver awareness increases, the number of violations will decrease,” Lumpkin wrote in the annual report he sent last month to Gov. Sonny Perdue. “A project of this type should be given several years to accurately assess the impact of the automated red-light enforcement system.”

The county has no immediate plans to expand the system beyond the current two intersections, Lumpkin said.

But police have candidates.

“Where (cameras) are particularly effective and efficient are the major intersections, those that have multiple lanes intersecting,” Lumpkin said. “Complex intersections such as these pose a significant safety issue.”

One example Lumpkin gave is Atlanta Highway’s intersection with Timothy and Mitchell Bridge roads, near Georgia Square Mall, the location with the third-highest number of reported collisions in 2006. Another is a couple of blocks away at Atlanta Highway and Huntington Road, an intersection that 70,000 vehicles pass through each day and had the second most highest number of crashes in 2006.

When crash data for 2005 and 2007 is compiled later this month, Lumpkin will meet with traffic engineers to discuss whether and where to add more red-light cameras, he said. The numbers for 2005 weren’t completed because the engineer changed jobs, and 2007 crash data isn’t yet compiled, Athens-Clarke Transportation and Public Works Director David Clark said.

When police and traffic officials get ready to add more cameras, funding won’t be a problem.

The county collected $217,172 in ticket fines from the Lexington Road cameras in 2005, the year the automated enforcement system first came online.

But the cameras generated more than triple that amount in 2007 – $818,659 – after a trio of cameras were installed at Broad and Alps at the beginning of the year.

Since 2005, the cameras have generated $1,035,831 in fines, but after subtracting costs, the county had a balance of $569,047 in its red-light program account as of Feb. 1.

The largest chunk from those expenses came from the $205,500 used to install camera equipment on West Broad Street intersection. Another $210,365 was used over three years for system maintenance and pay the salary of a clerk who reviews and mails citations.

The county pays the camera system’s vendor, Norcross-based LaserCraft Inc., $80,000 a year to maintain the camera system – $16,000 per camera, according to the grand jury report.

LaserCraft downloads images several times a day and sends police only those photographs that appear to show blatant violations, according to Capt. Mike Shockley, who oversees the system for the police department.

Both a clerk and a police officer review the photographs, make sure the vehicles in the pictures ran the red light, obtain the name and address of the registered owner and mail citations.

Under state law, a red-light violation issued by an automated system is considered a civil matter and $70 is the maximum fine a local government can set. When a police officer witnesses a violation and writes a ticket on the spot, the charge is criminal because the violator can confront his accuser in court, Shockley said.

Officer-issued citations carry a $140 fine.

The county mailed 14,299 red-light summonses last year, and 82 percent of violators paid fines without contesting them in court, according to Lumpkin’s report to the governor. Fewer than 1 percent of alleged violators, or 112, contested their tickets, 86 of which were dismissed and 26 resulted in guilty pleas.

The October 2007 term of the Clarke County grand jury formed a committee to review the red-light camera system to see if police and county officials are using the system responsibly, according to Seigler.

“By and large, we found that the county has been running the camera very well. We were all very pleased with how well it’s doing.”

Besides limiting the number of intersections where the police install enforcement cameras, the grand jury recommended setting criteria for where to place them, based on traffic counts, accidents, injuries and citations, and writing a policy about when a camera should be removed.

After the review, however, Seigler praised the system for the “checks and balances” that keep it fair.

“If you felt you got a ticket unfairly you can take it before a judge,” Seigler said. “Granted, there’s not a good chance of winning because the police do a good job weeding out questionable violations, and if a person is cited it is pretty clear from the photographs that the person ran the red light by a significant amount. There is no inherent bias in the system.”

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 021008