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City leaders are considering red light cameras at some intersections in the city, ostensibly in an effort to improve public safety. The cameras, ubiquitous in cities like Boulder …
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City leaders are considering red light cameras at some intersections in the city, ostensibly in an effort to improve public safety.
The cameras, ubiquitous in cities like Boulder and Fort Collins, automatically ticket traffic light offenders at key intersections, with an automatic summons, usually a $75 fine, issued via mail.
The systems are not without controversy. Proponents second the safety benefits, while opponents claim the systems are simply another revenue generation tool in a city’s arsenal. Backing that claim is the fact that the majority of red light cameras in use pay for themselves in a 50/50 split with the firm contracted to supply the devices, adding a virtually cost-free revenue stream to often cash-strapped municipalities. In addition to the financial questions raised, multiple comprehensive studies have shown that the cameras may actually increase accidents and injuries at intersections so equipped, often by double digits.
Presenting a measure prepared by Brighton police Lt. Paul Southard and brought before the July 13 city council study session, police Chief Clint Blackhurst discussed the idea’s pros and cons, noting that traffic safety is a primary function of the department. According to language found in the packet, red light violations by motorists pose a substantial threat to the motoring public and sometimes result in traffic crashes that cause serious injuries and significant property damage. In addition, the document states that police may pose an additional threat to the public by chasing the offender, potentially through the red light.
In addition to the claimed safety benefits, the implementation of the red light system allows for 24-hour, seven-day per-week presence at chosen intersections,
“Changing the behavior of many more offending motorists than an officer can contact,” according to the packet. “It would also further enhance the ability of police officers to focus their efforts on other traffic issues that impact the quality of life of the citizens of Brighton.”
According to the department, 2009 traffic statistics revealed a total of 119 red light citations in Brighton, with an additional 52 so far this year. That only reveals a small portion of the true offenders, based upon a study conducted April 20 and 21. On those dates, test cameras were placed at the intersections of U.S. Highway 85 and 136th Avenue, and at Highway 85 and 124th Avenue, respectively. At the first location, the police recorded 41 violations; at the second, 36.
Prior to the installation of cameras, the city would need an intergovernmental agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation, an approved ordinance and a set of policies related to use.
Toward that end, council gave approval for the department to move forward with plans to acquire the cameras.
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