News

Survey seeks views on red-light cameras

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

The city is asking residents to voice their opinions, via an online survey, on whether to implement a red-light photo enforcement pilot program.

The survey was requested by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Council Committee, a sub-committee of the city council. The survey will be used to decide whether to send the issue on to the full city council in July, said Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell.

On May 10, Federal Way Police Department Traffic Lieutenant Connie Shupp posted the five-question survey on the city’s Web site. The committee requested the survey, which would be used to gauge public opinion and educate drivers on the pilot program, Shupp said.

Police feel a red-light photo enforcement pilot program would provide better traffic safety to the public and free up police resources so that they may be used elsewhere, Shupp said.

“My whole intent is to get people to comply with traffic signals,” she said. “If everyone were doing this, it would reduce traffic injuries.”

The survey provides statistics on how red-light photo enforcement, which utilizes cameras to photograph and ticket drivers passing through red lights, decreases traffic accidents.

The survey asks residents what concerns them in regards to intersection safety. Another question, prefaced by data that indicates red-light enforcement decreases traffic accidents, asks whether one is in favor of the enforcement.

The survey can be accessed online until June 2, Shupp said. For those who not do have Internet, the survey can also be taken by calling (253) 835-6738.

Last weekend, 75 people participated in the online survey, most of whom are in favor of the red-light photo enforcement pilot program, Shupp said.

Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge said a group of Federal Way residents approached her about three weeks ago at St. Vincent’s Church to talk about the program. They supported the use of cameras to catch red-light violators, she said.

Although many seem to support the program, this was not always the case. Shupp first presented information about the red-light photo enforcement pilot program to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Council Committee on Sept. 11, 2006. She met with the committee again on Feb. 13, 2007. At this time, a Department of Public Safety memorandum, written Jan. 10, 2007, was reviewed and discussed.

Nationwide, of all crashes involving injuries, 44 percent occur in intersections, according to the memorandum, which sites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Motorists are also more likely to suffer injuries in crashes resulting from someone running a red light than they are from any other type of crash, the memorandum stated, citing the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

In Federal Way, in the first 10 months of 2006, 1,621 collisions occurred and 43 collisions (2.6 percent) happened in signal-controlled intersections, according to the memorandum.

Despite the figures, the pilot program was turned down by the committee in February 2007. There was some concern that the public would look at the cameras as a way for government to keep a watchful eye on city residents, Shupp said.

Ferrell initially had strong reservations about the pilot program. The committee did not want to implement something without support from the community, then have to backtrack in its steps, Ferrell said.

“I was really concerned with the fairness of it and how the public would react,” he said.

Although Ferrell had initial concerns about the program, he now feels the police are doing an adequate job of educating the public about it.

If people support the use of cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights, it is likely the committee will pass the program to the city council, Ferrell said.

The cameras are already in place in Pierce and King County cities, including Seattle, Auburn, Lynnwood and Lakewood.

They are also being used nationally in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, N.M., and Dayton, Ohio.

“I’m ready to ask the staff to go forward with it,” Burbidge said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: (253) 925-5565 or jhoward@fedwaymirror.com.

Take the survey

To participate in the survey, visit www.cityoffederalway.com or call (253) 835-6738.

Fast facts

A few misconceptions about the red-light photo enforcement program exist, but once people fully understand the program, most of them support it, Traffic Lieutenant Connie Shupp said.

If Federal Way were to adopt the pilot program, it would most likely last one year and be monitored to evaluate its effectiveness. The city would then have the choice to continue the program, Shupp said.

“After one year, if we don’t want it, we don’t have to have it,” she said.

The program would include the installation of four to eight digital cameras in the city’s busiest intersections, Shupp said. At least one camera would be needed to cover all access points to an intersection, meaning four or more cameras could be placed in each of the selected intersections, Shupp said.

Cameras would be mounted and would record violations for 30 days before they began issuing tickets, Shupp said. After the 30 days, violators would receive a ticket for $112, Shupp said. Shupp has recommended the revenue generated from a red-light photo enforcement program be used to further enhance and increase traffic safety enforcement and traffic education within the city.

Initial fees to mount the cameras are expected to be covered by the company that the city picks to supply them. However, in order for the cameras to be cost effective, two tickets must be given per camera per day, Shupp said.

Following the 30-day period, the cameras would capture photographs of the violators’ rear license plates as well as a 12-second video recording of the each violation, Shupp said. Cameras would not photograph the face of the violator.

Signs similar to speed limit postings would warn drivers of the use of cameras in the approaching intersection, Shupp said.

Similar to parking tickets, red-light infractions do not appear on the owner’s driving record, Shupp said. The ticket would have to be approved by police personnel, and an accompanying photograph of the violation would be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, she said. Instructions on how to access the Internet to view the 12-second video of the violation would be also be provided.

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