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Smile, you’re on the red light candid camera

Metropolitan Planning Com-mission records show that 37,200 or more motorists daily pass through the intersection of Lovell Road and Interstate 40-75, northeast of Farragut.

Beginning Monday, July 24, some of our more careless drivers will be obliged to pay for the privilege — if they ignore the stoplight and “blow through” the intersection late.

That’s because the Knoxville Police Department then will begin enforcing its RedFlex Traffic Systems camera program, designed to ticket heedless drivers who ignore amber caution lights and try to squeeze through intersections on red.

The busy Lovell Road intersection is one of nine, citywide, where cameras are being installed. Others began operating as early as April 25 at Cedar Bluff and North Peters roads, Cedar Bluff and westbound Interstate 40, Kingston Pike and Papermill Road, Kingston Pike and Alcoa Highway, Henley Street and Cumberland Avenue, Henley Street and Summit Hill Drive, and Clinton Highway at Tillery Street.

Darrell DeBusk, spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department, said only seven of those lights are operational, but two others will soon come on line.

Since May, DeBusk said, the seven cameras have detected more than 3,000 instances in which motorists apparently ran red lights.

Each camera system, he said, begins its operation with a 30-day “grace period” during which motorists, whose cars are found in violation, are warned — not fined — for their infraction. After the 30-day period lapses, DeBusk said, owners of the vehicles to whom the tags photographed are registered will be mailed a $50 citation.

Capt. Gordon Catlett, who directs KPD’s Special Projects Division, will work closely with other officers in reviewing photographic evidence of infractions to determine whether a particular vehicle violated the traffic law. Data pertaining to each infraction is processed by RedFlex Traffic Systems Inc. in Arizona before it’s forwarded to KPD for disposition.

DeBusk said drivers, in a hurry, often flagrantly violate the law and their carelessness, too often, causes “T-bone” accidents, which seriously injure motorists.

“This is just our way of cutting the number of violations and reducing the number of injury crashes,” DeBusk said. “We’ve never looked at it from the revenue perspective. It’s our job to keep people safe and prevent injuries.”

DeBusk said the camera system relies on a trigger, mounted in the white “stop bar” marking on the pavement, to detect vehicles still in the intersect-

ions on red.

Cameras, he said, do not photograph the car’s driver, but only the rear of the vehicle, including its license tag number.

AutoSense cameras photograph the tag and produce six seconds of videotape, before and after the violation, so officers have a frame of reference for ascertaining whether a violation occurred.

Car owners may appeal citations in municipal traffic court if they can convince a judge that another individual was driving their car at the time of the offense. DeBusk said actual drivers, in those cases, would then be fined instead.

DeBusk said the new cameras will not be used to detect seatbelt use or other moving


Some drivers confuse the AutoSense camera system with freeway cameras mounted along Interstate highways as part of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s SmartWays


TDOT’s system, begun locally in May 2005 with 70 Knox County cameras, monitors key freeway locations for traffic flow and alerts motorists along those routes, using electronic messages posted on 16 large digital signs, whenever bad weather, road construction, traffic accidents or other incidents cause backups. TDOT also broadcasts traffic advisories using AM radio transmitters on the 1620


Cameras detecting stoplight violations have reduced accident numbers at busy intersections in other states by as much as 18 percent. In one California locale, 64,000 such citations, issued in a four-year period, netted fines of more than $270 for each violation.

DeBusk said cameras also were considered for other key intersections, including the increasingly busy crossroads of Lovell Road at Parkside Drive. Those may be installed later, he said, depending on experience with the existing nine camera locations.


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