Raleigh traffic cameras gain support

Red-light plan likely is saved

mgarfield@newsobserver.comSeptember 28, 2011 

  • Raleigh's SafeLight traffic cameras take two photographs as proof of a violation. The first photo is of a car approaching an intersection with a red light, and the second photo shows the vehicle continuing through the intersection.

    A citation is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle and carries a $50 fine with the possibility of an additional $50 penalty if the fine is not paid within 30 days. No driver's license or insurance points are assessed.

    The current Raleigh SafeLight locations are:

    Dawson Street at Morgan Street

    McDowell Street at Morgan Street

    Dawson Street at South Street

    Hillsborough Street at Dixie Trail/Friendly Drive

    Avent Ferry Road at Varsity Drive

    New Bern Avenue at Tarboro Road

    Peace Street at West Street

    Wilmington Street at Chapanoke Road

    Six Forks Road at Dartmouth Street

    Six Forks Road at Rowan Street

    New Bern Avenue at Interstate 440 Eastbound

    New Bern Avenue at I-440 Westbound

    Capital Boulevard at Highwoods Boulevard

    Capital Boulevard at Buffaloe Road/New Hope Church Road

    New Hope Church Road at Brentwood Road

    For more information, call the city's public works department at 919-996-3030.

    Source: City of Raleigh

— The city's red-light cameras appear likely to survive after all.

City Councilman Eugene Weeks said Tuesday he would drop his opposition to the program - a reversal that provides the additional vote needed to extend a contract with the company that manages the cameras.

The council had voted 4-3 last week to renew the 8-year-old program - one vote short of the five needed for approval. The contract expires Friday, and the cameras will continue working through midnight that day unless the council reconsiders, said Mike Kennon, the city's transportation operations manager.

The cameras photograph vehicles that enter an intersection after the light has turned red, and the pictures and a $50 fine are sent to the vehicle's owner, based on the license plate. It's a civil infraction, like a parking ticket, with no effect on driving records or insurance rates.

The city began installing the cameras at historically dangerous intersections in summer 2003 and now has them at 15 intersections citywide.

City traffic engineers say the cameras have helped reduce serious T-bone crashes by discouraging people from running red lights. Critics say the cameras are inherently unfair because vehicle owners automatically receive a ticket in the mail without the opportunity to challenge them on the spot.

In the early years of the program, drivers contested as many as 20 percent of camera citations; only about 2 percent of those appeals were successful, Kennon said. The addition of the video has drastically cut those numbers so that in 2011, only 2 percent of citations have been appealed, and of those only 16 percent were overturned, he said.

Intersection review

Weeks said he would request another vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting. The District C representative voted "no" last week because he was upset over the removal of a red-light camera at a busy intersection in southeast Raleigh.

But Weeks changed his stance after city officials agreed to evaluate the intersection, Rock Quarry and Proctor roads.

"I told them, 'As long as you're studying it, that's the bottom line,' " said Weeks, who faces four challengers in the election Oct. 11. "Keep it active; that's the important thing."

Raleigh is one of four communities that use red-light cameras in North Carolina, along with Cary, Knightdale and Wilmington.

The program was not meant to be a money maker for the city. The citation fees not needed to cover the cost of the program are turned over to the Wake County public schools - more than $521,000 since the cameras were put up.

The benefits go beyond roadway safety, Kennon said.

"It has definitely saved lives," he said. "It's been a great program because it's not paid for by the general taxpayers, but by the violators."

Garfield: 919-836-4952

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