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Town hosts second ‘Town Hall’ red-light camera meeting

Knoxville Police Department Capt. Gordon Catlett pointed out the benefits of traffic cameras during a public meeting Monday night at Farragut Town Hall.

This was the second of two public meetings conducted by Farragut town officials to give residents an opportunity to ask questions.

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 10 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 supplied by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. 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.

One person asked about the rumor the camera company can change the timing of the yellow light cycle on traffic signals.

“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: 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.

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 town staff would begin making recommendations for the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen to consider on this matter.


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