Thursday, November 18, 2010
Longview police officer defends red light cameras
Is the decrease in intersection accidents in Longview due to the implementation of the red light camera program? Time will tell, he says.
LONGVIEW Red light cameras are controversial across the nation. Some people think they’re a good idea for cutting down on the amount of people who run red lights; others feel it’s unfair for a machine to take a picture of their car and mail a citation to them. No matter what side of the fence you stand on, it is important that you have factual information about the red light camera program in Longview, not about a program in College Station, Houston, or Dallas.
Red lights cameras were installed in Longview with one goal, and only that goal in mind-to decrease the amount of red light runners and increase safety. Since the cameras were first installed in 2007, we have seen a 45.4% decrease in intersection accidents city wide, not just the intersections that have cameras. Those are good results and indicate that red light cameras may be causing drivers to be more cautious at intersections. With that said, I would like to speak to some of the issues mentioned recently about the cameras.
“There’s no appeal process if you get a red light ticket” -- Drivers who receive a red light ticket will receive an address to a website where they can watch a video of the violation. If the driver watches the video and disagrees with receiving a ticket, the first step to appeal would be with the red light camera Administrative Hearing Officer at the Longview Police Department. The Hearing Officer will review the violation with the driver and determine whether or not the driver is liable for the citation. If the Hearing Officer finds the driver liable, but the driver disagrees, the driver can appeal the citation to the Longview Municipal Court where a hearing will take place in front of the Judge. Since the implementation of the cameras, only one driver has appealed their violation to the Municipal Court.
“The registered owner of the car will get the ticket, no matter who was driving” -- It is true that if you loaned the vehicle to someone and they ran a red light that you are responsible for the citation. There are several reasons the registered owner wouldn’t be responsible, such as: the owner sold the vehicle and has a bill of sale with the purchaser’s information; the owner’s vehicle or license plate was stolen at the time of the violation and the owner reported the theft to the police; inclement weather caused the driver to slide into the intersection while they were attempting to stop; there was a problem with the traffic signal; a police officer directed the driver into the intersection; or the driver entered the intersection to move out of the way of an emergency vehicle. The most common scenario seen in Longview are sales of vehicles to individuals, without properly transferring title information. If you sell your car to someone and that person does not transfer the title, they will continue to drive the car while it is registered in your name. The Texas Department of Transportation recommends that you keep your license plates when you sell your car to an individual. This will require the buyer to go to their county tax assessor and register the vehicle immediately. Always, always complete a bill of sale when buying or selling any vehicle, and complete a Vehicle Transfer Notification form from the Texas Department of Transportation.
“The flash of the camera causes accidents” -- It is true that the bright flash of the red light camera at night is very bright. With that said, there hasn’t been a reported accident with the camera flash listed as a causative factor in the City of Longview.
“The police department is getting rich from these cameras” -- At this point, the red light camera system has yet to generate any revenue for the City of Longview. The amount of revenue generated by the red light cameras has yet to exceed the lease amount for the camera system, so the funds collected go to Redflex, who owns, maintains, and operates the camera system for whatever funds are generated. Even though the cameras are not generating enough money to pay the lease amount, the City of Longview does not pay anything for the camera system.
In the United States, red light runners are responsible for an estimated 260,000 crashes and 800 deaths each year. Red light crashes are also most likely to cause injury with 45% of occupant injuries occurring as compared to 30% in other types of crashes (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety www.higwaysafety.org). Is the decrease in intersection accidents in Longview due to the implementation of the red light camera program? Time will tell.
Written by Kevin Brownlee of the Longview Police Department