Community

Did you know? Facts on Federal Way's traffic cameras

The intersection of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South features photo enforcement cameras for red light violations. The city of Federal Way currently has six traffic cameras, three of which are installed in school zones. - Mirror file photo
The intersection of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South features photo enforcement cameras for red light violations. The city of Federal Way currently has six traffic cameras, three of which are installed in school zones.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Did you know the city of Federal Way has generated $8.62 million in eight years from its traffic cameras, accidents have decreased as a result of their presence and there were 24,454 traffic violations in 2013?

Mirror staff asked the Federal Way Police Department for more information regarding its Traffic Safety Photo Enforcement Program.

Read on to learn more:

Q: What are the benefits of having red light photo cameras in place?

A: The primary benefit of having the Traffic Safety Photo Enforcement Program in our community is “safety.” The traffic-related matters pose the greatest threat to our citizens, yet is often overlooked because traffic collisions happen so often and randomly.

The program enables the city to provide ongoing, consistent enforcement in these chronic, high-violation locations, increasing safety for motorists and pedestrians, including schoolchildren using the three school zones. It would be prohibitively expensive to provide this level of enforcement at these locations with a police officer.

Despite the best efforts of law enforcement and educational authorities, traffic-related threats to our citizens are still significant. High-visibility traffic enforcement by police officers and using the program technology allows for opportunities to raise public awareness about traffic safety.

Q: Describe how the process works regarding red light photo cameras and how violators are identified and notified, etc.

A: The system activates when motion is detected just prior to the stop bar after the traffic signal has turned red.

The cameras capture two images of an alleged violation, taken from the rear of the vehicle. The first image shows the vehicle at the white stop bar and the illuminated red light.

The second image shows the violator in the middle of the intersection with the red light illuminated. The license plate image is a close-up from one of the images captured.

Data, including the time, date and duration of the yellow and red lights, also is recorded.

Cameras also record a 12-second digital video of the violation, including six seconds prior to and six seconds after running the red light.

How the speed safety camera works: The camera system is linked to embedded speed sensors located within a predefined monitoring zone. When the sensors detect a vehicle traveling at a speed above the zone’s speed threshold, the camera system is triggered to take the first photo — known as the “A” shot — which captures the rear of the vehicle.

As the vehicle continues through the speed monitoring zone, the sensors verify the vehicle’s speed, and if the vehicle is in fact traveling in excess of the speed threshold, the camera system takes the second photo—known as the “B” shot. Up to two images are captured from the front of the vehicle to identify the driver of the vehicle.

In addition to these photos, the system records a synchronized video clip of the violation to enhance enforceability.

Q: How are violators identified and notified?

A: Based upon images captured by the automated system, your vehicle was determined to have committed a red-light or speed violation. As the vehicle owner, the notice of infraction is mailed to you.

From a review of the electronic images by an automated traffic safety camera, it has been determined that, on the date and time and at the location indicated on the front side of this notice, your vehicle was exceeding the posted speed limit in a school zone or was facing a steady red or red arrow traffic control signal when it failed to stop at a clearly marked stop line or at any other stopping point described in the ordinance.

Q: How do I know that these violations are valid?

A: Images of the vehicle are captured and recorded by a Road Safety Program. Images and video of the actual occurrence can be reviewed online at www.violationinfo.com. The images and video are reviewed by several qualified technicians and finally by the Federal Way Police Department before the alleged civil violation is affirmed and mailed to the registered owner.

The digital photographic evidence of the incident is submitted as evidence in a municipal court proceeding for prosecution of this violation. You may view the video and images of the incident online at www.ViolationInfo.com by using the notice number and PIN number printed on the front of the notice.

Video and images may also be viewed using the kiosk on the first floor of Federal Way Municipal Court/ City Hall north entrance; located at 33325 8th Ave S., during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Q: How many red light photo cameras are there in Federal Way and where are they located?

A: There are three red light photo cameras and three school zone cameras.

Red lights:

•Enchanted Parkway at South 348th Street/Highway 18

•South 320th Street at Pacific Highway South

•South 312th Street at Pacific Highway South

School zones:

•Southwest 320th at Twin Lakes Elementary

•First Avenue South at Panther Lake Elementary

•21st Avenue Southwest at Southwest Campus Drive

Q: How much money did the city generate in net revenue from the cameras in 2013? In 2014? How much money has the city generated so far, since the cameras have been in affect?

A: In 2013: $2.1 million; 2014 (through June 24): $790,232; 2008-2014: $8.62 million.

Q: The photo ticket revenue goes into the city’s traffic safety fund. What is this fund used for? How much money is currently in that fund?

A: By Ordinance No. 08-854, the City Council restricts the use of traffic safety photo camera revenues to the Traffic Safety Fund, which can only be used for “funding prevention, education and enforcement efforts to enhance traffic safety and compliance with traffic control devices within the City, including maintenance and operation costs.”

One notable example of how the Traffic Safety Fund is used for traffic safety is the school zone safety enhancements the Council approved in 2013. Over the course of four years, this is installing larger speed limit signs, variable speed limit signs at some locations and upgrades to student crosswalks, at a total of $1.07 million over the four years.

During 2013, $227,000 was used for the School Zone Enhancement project (the multi-year project to enhance signage and driver awareness at school zones across the city) and $1,075,040 was used for police operations.

Q: What is the city’s biggest challenge regarding the red light photo cameras?

A: The intersection traffic safety cameras are far more efficient than a police officer — the system operates 24 hours a day and is non-discriminating and equitable to all citizens. Because of its efficiency, the perception exists that it is all about generating revenue.

Intersection cameras enable the city to provide ongoing, consistent enforcement in these chronic, high-violation locations, increasing safety for motorists and pedestrians. It would be prohibitively expensive and not remotely realistic to provide this level of enforcement at these locations with police officers.

The technology augments the city’s ability to raise traffic safety awareness and safety of our citizens.

Q: What are some of the common misconceptions that people have about the red light photo cameras?

A: The most common misconception is that the shorter yellow signal length factors into a motorist receiving an infraction. The intersection cameras will not document a violation after a driver has entered the intersection on a green or a yellow light. The camera will only document the violation if the vehicle enters the intersection, shy of the stop bar, after the traffic light has turned red.

The city of Federal Way calculates the duration of yellow signals on the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, using a formula from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, which is based on approach speed and grade. Yellow signal durations at the three red light camera intersections in the city are as low as 3.5 seconds and as high as 4.5 seconds, depending on the specific conditions at each approach.

Q: What is the breakdown on the number of violations that occurred at each of the locations of the red light photo cameras in 2008? 2012? 2013? 2014, so far? Does the city see a trend with these violations at particular intersections (for example, do they happen more frequently in school zones)?

A:

Red Lights:

Enchanted Parkway at South 348th Street/Highway 18 – Citations by year

2008: 3,416

2009: 5,955

2010: 3,084

2011: 1,974

2012: 2,413

2013: 2,335

South 320th Street at Pacific Highway South – Citations by year

2008: 3,241

2009: 6,284

2010: 14,374

2011: 5,914

2012: 8,457

2013: 8,930

South 312th Street at Pacific Highway South- Citations by year (partial year 2010)

2008:  0

2009: 149

2010: 2,834

2011: 1,667

2012: 2,555

2013: 2,232

School Zones:

Southwest 320th at Twin Lakes Elementary – Citations by year (partial year 2009)

2008: 0

2009: 348

2010: 1,979

2011: 1,824

2012: 3,185

2013: 2,424

First Avenue South at Panther Lake Elementary – Citations by year (partial year 2010)

2008: 0

2009: 0

2010: 503

2011: 3,241

2012: 9,595

2013: 6,187

21st Avenue Southwest at Southwest Campus Drive – Citations by year (partial year 2009)

2008: 0

2009: 381

2010: 2,917

2011: 720*

2012: 2,783

2013: 2,346

*Construction during 2011

Q: What percentage have school zone violations decreased at all the areas (if they have decreased)?

A: Southwest 320th at Twin Lake Elementary - 2010 versus 2011 had a decrease of 7.8 percent, whereas 2012 versus 2013 had a decrease of 23.9 percent.

First Avenue South at Panther Lake Elementary – 2010 no comparison due to partial year inception, 2012 versus 2013 had a decrease of 35.5 percent.

21st Avenue Southwest at Southwest Campus Drive – 2011 was partial due to construction, 2010 versus 2012 had a decrease of 4.6 percent whereas 2012 versus 2013 had a decrease of 15.7 percent.

Since 2008 and 2009 were inception/expansion years for the program, the most accurate comparison is reflected during the “fully operational” years, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The significant decreases realized in 2013 versus 2012 can be attributed to an aggressive education campaign conducted by the city of Federal Way in conjunction with ATS.

Q: Does the city have data regarding how the red light photo cameras have benefitted the intersections/areas where they are placed?

A: Traffic collisions in the red light photo enforcement intersections have steadily declined since inception, with the exception of South 312th and Pacific Highway South which have had negligible change since 2010.

Traffic collisions citywide have steadily declined since the inception of the Traffic Safety Camera program, thus providing a safer environment throughout the city (halo affect).

Considering that the three intersections represent the city’s highest traffic volume, the Intersection Traffic Safety Cameras are far more efficient than a police officers – the system operates 24 hours a day and is non-discriminating and equitable to all citizens.

With few exceptions the red-light photo violations are decreasing, which equates to safer intersections.

Traffic collision data represents traffic collisions within the intersection. Since 2008 and 2009 were inception (expansion) years for the program, the most complete comparison is reflected during the “fully operational” years, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Please take a moment and complete the Mirror's online survey regarding traffic cameras at www.federalwaymirror.com/news/265769771.html.

 

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