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Federal Way residents sound off on traffic cameras | Editor's Note
The intersection of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South features photo enforcement cameras for red light violations.
Some residents say keep them for school zone safety.
Others say the city couldn’t get rid of them soon enough.
Traffic cameras garnered mixed results in the Mirror’s recent Federal Way Forum survey , which asked residents six questions on the topic.
We received 78 responses, including five print responses and 73 online. The majority of responses — 82 percent — came from people who live in Washington, but some people in eight other states also responded, from New Jersey to Texas.
We asked the community if they have ever received a ticket from Federal Way’s Traffic Safety Photo Enforcement Program and, if so, at what intersection.
Sixty-five percent — or 51 people — have never received a ticket, while 35 percent, or 27 respondents, have. The biggest hot spot, according to this survey, is at the intersection of 312th Street and Pacific Highway South, where 14 people received one or more tickets. Others were ticketed mostly in schools zones, including five at Panther Lake Elementary.
Of those who received tickets, many said they sped through a school zone, performed a “California stop” at a red light or made a right hand turn before coming to a complete stop in front of the white line.
The survey also asked residents if the city needs photo enforcement. Participants’ answers were nearly split down the middle, with 38 saying “yes” and 36 “no.”
“No, the city does not need photo enforcement,” wrote one participant. “It is a violation of constitutional rights and assumes guilt, violates privacy and harms kids.”
“No, because people end up slamming their brakes on a yellow light because they fear getting a ticket.”
Others disagreed, noting Federal Way needs traffic camera enforcement.
“[There are] too many lead-footed idiots racing through intersections and around in school zones,” one person wrote. “They ignore any posted signs, so perhaps a fine will get their attention.”
Another wrote, “Absolutely, collectively we seem to think that traffic laws are suggestions. We will never get traffic under control until we put the ‘old west, sheriff must run down and apprehend the bad guy’ mentality behind us. We could never afford enough police officers for proper traffic control.”
The survey also asked if the city should consider placing cameras in all school zones.
The majority of entrants, 42, said no, while 28 said yes and seven were undecided.
“No. School zones are already the safest streets in the city. Where are the stats to show that school zones are more dangerous than other locations?”
Another wrote, “No, I think the schools should have their own flaggers and one school patrol car out during the times kids are being let out of school. What are we paying the school administrators for?”
Most of those who answered yes were motivated for an obvious reason — student safety. Thirty-five people said the city’s biggest benefit of having traffic cameras is revenue generation, while 22 said safety.
“The city earns a lot of revenue at the expense of taxpayers who are already broke,” one person wrote.
However, another person strongly feels it’s not about the money: “Restraining the behavior of drivers who think that traffic laws exist to keep other drivers out of their way. We, Federal Way, Washington, USA have a problem on the roads. We need to put the specious money grab argument behind us to recognize and deal with the issue.”
Residents also sounded off about their concerns with traffic cameras. They ranged from fighting a camera photo versus a police officer in court, the duration of yellow lights at intersections with cameras appears to be shorter, to potential camera malfunctions and the cost of a traffic ticket.
“[Traffic cameras] increase the likelihood of small collisions because people passing through intersections are paranoid about getting a ticket, so they will stop suddenly if a light turns yellow,” one person wrote.
“The City Council is making money off of poor people who cannot afford a ticket well over $100,” another wrote. “That is a whole day’s salary for most people. Plus if they protest the ticket they have to take off work without pay. Shame on you, City Council.”
The final question asked residents if they would fight a ticket in court. Forty-two people said yes, 17 said no and 19 were undecided. Many who answered no said it’s easier to pay the fine due to the inconvenience of having to go to court.
Others said they want their time in front of a judge: “I want to face my accusers who made me feel like a criminal,” wrote one respondent. “I have lived in Federal Way over 35 years and am a contributing taxpayer. You are making me a stressful driver in Federal Way as I try to plot out routes that avoid cameras. Shame on you for treating me like this.”
But others wrote they would pay the ticket if it was justified: “If I was guilty, I would pay the fine and figure it’s a lesson learned.”