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Redlight cameras draw few
Camera opponents ‘no-shows’


Red light cameras prevent property loss and modify driving habits.

This was the heart of comments made by Knoxville Police Department Capt. Gordon C


atlett during a public meeting Monday night at Farragut Town Hall.

This was the first of two public meetings sponsored by town staff to answer questions from residents about the town’s interest in installing red light cameras in Farragut. The next meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 30.

Catlett was involved in the process of seeking out information and developing a plan for Knoxville for the use of red light cameras. As part of the study, he said they looked at areas where angle crashes, commonly known as T-bone accidents, were highest.

“I was tasked with finding out the best locations that would benefit from the use of the cameras,” he said. “We selected ten locations throughout the city of Knoxville.”

The cameras were installed in ten locations throughout Knoxville at the beginning of 2006. Catlett said the effect of the cameras on the overall accident rate has been phenomenal.

“We not only saw a forty-five percent reduction in angle crashes, but they had the added benefit of reducing the number of crashes by seventeen percent,” he said.

The town is considering using cameras through a company called Redflex. Redflex uses 12 megapixel digital cameras and full-motion video to catch violators in action and capture images of their license plates. Sensors produce an image A, which shows a violator approaching an intersection. This image contains a data bar, which shows date and time, intersection location, speed of vehicle approaching intersection, posted speed limit, length of time signal in red phase and other pertinent information. Image B shows violators going through a red light. The video shoots for 12 seconds to show, for example, if someone had to run a red light to make way for an emergency vehicle. After a violation, citations for $50 are mailed to registered owners of the vehicles. The violations have to be certified by a police officer before they are mailed out.

Critics of cameras have been vocal in outlets where they hide behind shields of anonymity, but none spoke out during the public forum. Catlett, however, addressed some of the more common criticisms of cameras.

Critics of cameras have said the cameras decrease angle crashes, but increase rear-end collisions. Catlett said statistics don’t back that up.

“We saw a one-percent decrease in rear-end collisions as a result of the cameras,” he said.

Another common criticism, he said, is a concern that Redflex, which is responsible for the Knoxville cameras, alters the time for the yellow signal to shorten it.

“Our yellow signal is four seconds, one second longer than the state-mandated standard,” he said. “Only the engineering department has access to it. It doesn’t make sense for anyone else to have access to it. Think how liable that would make the city.”

Another common complaint some have had concerns being cited when they weren’t driving the vehicle.

Catlett said Knoxville has in its ordinance a contingency for such measures. He used Enterprise Rent A Car as an example. The company is ultimately responsible for their rental cars, but what happens if one of their renters runs a red light. He said if someone else is driving a vehicle that runs a red light, the owner may file an affidavit with the police department swearing he or she wasn’t driving the car at the time and offer up evidence on the identity of the actual driver. The real driver would then receive the citation.

What happens if extenuating circumstances force a driver through an intersection, such as a funeral procession or to allow an emergency services vehicle to pass?

“That’s the great thing about having an officer certify the violations,” he said. “They look at extenuating circumstances.”

The video taken by the camera allows an officer to see the circumstances in those situations and allows them to void any possible citations for drivers giving way to emergency services

vehicles.

Some criticize the camera program as a way for a municipality to make money.

Knox County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ben Harkins said from the outset of discussing red light cameras in Farragut, town officials showed little concern whether cameras made money or cost money. It was all about

safety.

“Our program is more about modifying driving habits,” Catlett said.

Harkins said a recent event showed him the value of the cameras. At the intersection of N. Peters Road and Cedar Bluff, he witnessed two vehicles run a red light on a left turn signal. He had to decide which one of the vehicles to follow because he knew he couldn’t let them both get away with it. As he was gearing up to have to speed through traffic around other motorists, he said he saw two flashes and knew the cameras had caught both motorists. Neither one would get away and he didn’t have to weave around other motorists to get to the

violators.

“That’s a good point,” Catlett said. “Officers can’t be everywhere at once.”

Assistant town administrator Gary Palmer said prior to contacting Redflex, he and town staff conducted an unofficial tally of the number of violations at certain intersections. What they looked for was clear occasions of drivers running red lights. At the intersection of Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road, they counted 64 violations during the middle of the week between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. At that same intersection, they counted 39 violations on a Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The intersection of Kingston Pike and Concord Road garnered 75 violations mid-week and 49 violations between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a Friday.

At the intersection of North Campbell Station Road and Grigsby Chapel Road, staff counted 87 violations between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. midweek; 63 violations between those same hours on a Friday.

Palmer said after the next public meeting, town staff would begin making recommendations for the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen to consider on this matter.

 

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