About eight months after suspending red-light cameras along Knightdale Boulevard, data gathered by the police department shows what proponents of the cameras said would happen: an increase in crashes at those intersections.
Knightdale quietly decided not to renew its contract with RedFlex, a company that handles red-light cameras, last October.
In February, the town deleted the red-light camera section in the town code. The cameras are still standing, but they do not take pictures of drivers.
The number of crashes at any of the intersections that previously had cameras has not increased by more than five, but police Chief Jason Godwin said it’s still important because in a low-crime area like Knightdale, motor vehicle incidents become the biggest threat to residents’ safety.
According to the data, the intersection at Knightdale Boulevard and Widewaters Parkway saw the most incidents before and after red-light cameras.
In 2013 from January to June, while red-light cameras were operational, police responded to 15 accidents. From January to June of this year, when cameras were off, police responded to 20 accidents.
In 2013, most of those accidents involved two cars. It was the same this year, although the intersection also saw one three-car accident.
Other factors play a role
But Godwin said there’s no sure way to tell if that’s because the cameras stopped operating or just because the town has more drivers.
“I don’t know if we have the research to definitively contribute all the accidents to a singular issue,” he said.
At Knightdale Boulevard and Widewaters Parkway, there are several stores that Godwin said probably attract more drivers and with more drivers, there is a higher likelihood of crashes happening.
The Knightdale Boulevard intersections at First Avenue and Smithfield Road both only saw two more wrecks after the town stopped using red-light cameras, but Smithfield Road racked up several times the number of collisions at First Avenue.
From Jauary to June 2013, when cameras were on, there were two wrecks at the intersection of Knightdale Boulevard and First Avenue. In that same time period, at Knightdale Boulevard and Smithfield Road, there were 12 crashes.
This year, without operating red-light cameras, the First Avenue intersection had four accidents from January to June. The intersection at Smithfield Road saw 14 accidents in that time period.
For now, the cameras will stay up at the three intersections, which can act as deterrents for drivers who may not know they’re not snapping pictures.
“It’s no different than the staging of police cars along the interstate,” Godwin said.
Town Manager Seth Lawless said the town looked in to using the cameras to capture video that may help with other crimes in instances where a suspect may flee, but it wouldn’t be cost-effective.
Lawless said there are no other plans in the works for the cameras.