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Red light cameras up, running at three intersections

The Town held its second and final planned forum on the newly-installed red light cameras Thursday, Oct. 1, a day before the cameras went live for a 45-day warning period.

During that period, citations will be issued, but fines won’t be assessed.

Farragut residents expressed concerns about the red light cameras to Knox County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ben Harkins, Town photo enforcement manager.

“Generally, I think I’m in favor of the light system,” Bill Jones said, but he questioned Harkins about turning left on red.

“In the 1960s, when I learned to drive, they told you to pull into the intersection on a green light, wait until oncoming traffic clears, and then when the traffic stops, whether on a [yellow] or red light, you then cleared the intersection.

“I would technically be in the intersection, the light turns yellow, the light turns red … and then I turn left. Is that a violation or is that OK?” he asked.

Harkins said the danger of entering the intersection before you knew you could turn meant you ended up blocking traffic if you were still there when the light turned.

“It may be a violation of failure to yield right-of-way … we don’t want you to do that,” Harkins said.

But the camera “isn’t taking pictures of anybody until after the light turns red,” he added.

Lamar Orr asked about where vehicles were required to stop at intersections before making right turns on red.

Harkins said Tennessee law requires drivers to come to a full stop at the stop bar or the crosswalk. But Harkins also said he knew the roads, and sometimes after stopping, drivers needed to scoot up to see.

“If you don’t run the light, it’s not going to generate a citation from me,” Harkins said.

Eric Horlbeck asked about the change of the yield sign to a stop sign for drivers entering Grigsby Chapel Road from Campbell Station Road.

“I seriously question whether that sign would have changed had the cameras not been in the picture,” he said, adding he thought the sign was designed to catch drivers with a new intersection while cameras went up.

Harkins said no cameras were up at that intersection yet, and no cameras would be placed until the road widening was completed in the next year.

“We could have waited and put the cameras in and then taken the [yield] sign down. That would have been a ‘gotcha,’” Harkins responded.

“[But] this is really not a ‘gotcha’ system,” he added.

Bella Safro asked Harkins about the legality of the red light system, claiming Tennessee law declares red light running to be a Class C Misdemeanor, along with other traffic citations.

But red light running, when recorded by an automated camera, is recorded as a civil violation, with no “points,” she said.

“[Red light runners] are criminals. They kill people; they injure people,” Safro said.

“This system is not out to get bad people. It is to get everyone … to pay attention,” Harkins said.

“I’m trying to justify it in my mind. … This system was found unconstitutional [in other states],” Safro said.

The decision on the legality of red light cameras was up to the courts, Harkins said. And Tennessee legislature already had deemed the cameras acceptable.

In-ground loop sensors trigger the automated enforcement cameras to take photographs and video of vehicles entering the intersection after a light has turned red.

The photos and videos will be reviewed by Redflex employees and then by Harkins. He has the ultimate say over whether a possible violation warrants a citation or not.

“I promise you, if you’re paying attention … you won’t have an issue,” Harkins said.


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