Cary red-light camera malfunctions 31 times

Cary mayor says town may change red-light system

akenney@newsobserver.com May 13, 2012 

— At least 20 people were victims of the same overenthusiastic Cary traffic camera system, and town officials are not happy. After an investigation revealed the repeated glitch, and amid a lawsuit regarding the camera network, two council members said Cary could make significant changes to its automated red-light ticketing program.

The cameras at High House Road and Cary Parkway first malfunctioned last summer, and over the next year registered at least 31 false positives, many of which led to $50 tickets. The town of Cary is “very disappointed” that the glitch went unnoticed by Redflex, the contractor that administers Cary’s automated traffic-ticketing system and keeps 88 percent of the money paid by violators.

“Redflex has a lot of issues,” said Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we changed the way we’re using red-light cameras.”

Councilman Don Frantz echoed those sentiments, saying the town could significantly modify its traffic-control system.

“We did it with the intention of public safety. Since then, the town has made some improvements to a number of intersections,” Frantz said. “A good question now is: Is the red-light camera system even needed anymore?”

Asked about the fact that Redflex keeps the lion’s share of ticketing revenue, Frantz said the program is a “racket” and a drain on town staff’s time. Between April 2004 and last July, ticketed drivers paid $5.7 million to Redflex and $646,000 to the Wake County Public School System, which receives proceeds from the traffic cameras.

The traffic camera system at High House Road and Cary Parkway likely issued its first bad ticket sometime last summer, after the town reconfigured the intersection. Over the next year, at least 30 drivers were ticketed after making legal left-hand turns on a blinking yellow arrow.

While the contractor caught the same error a dozen times, it did not alert the town to a potential problem, according to town staff. That job fell to Howard Bond, a Chatham County resident.

“I’ve had folks call me and say ‘Boy, have you opened up a can of worms,’ ” said Bond, whose step-son was ticketed twice this year by the rogue camera. Both times, Bond said, Redflex’s video showed the car making a legal left on a blinking yellow turn arrow.

Bond took the first fine to Redflex’s Cary office where, he said, a staffer acknowledged the video-documented error and dismissed the ticket.

The second ticket made a bigger splash, Bond said. Too irritated to deal with Redflex, he went to a TV reporter, who went to the town government.

The complaint prompted an immediate dismissal of the ticket, an apology from the police chief and a town investigation. The contractor reviewed all camera-issued tickets at intersections with blinking yellow arrows, while the town fielded questions and complaints.

In all, Redflex found it had issued 20 tickets in error. The glitch started, said a local Redflex employee, because the company failed to adjust the camera system after the town added flashing yellow left-turn arrows to the intersection last May, Rubino said.

Frank Rubino, a local Redflex representative, said the glitch was lost in the thousands of Cary tickets that Redflex’s offices review. The pattern was difficult to discern because “we don’t see the same intersection every day,” he said. “We don’t see it until somebody brings it to our attention.”

The town and Redflex say they’ve concluded their investigation and fixed the false readings at Cary Parkway and High House. Two similar intersections showed no sign of errors, Godwin said. But for now the cameras at all three intersections remain partially deactivated, with no date set for the full return of the automated enforcers.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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