“We have a serious problem with red light violations.”
Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor
CRESTVIEW, Fla., March 13, 2018–The Crestview City Council approved to install traffic cameras to monitor the city’s busiest intersections Monday.
According to Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor, the traffic safety program will improve driver safety, reduce crashes at major intersections and cut down on injuries.
The passage of City Ordinance 1633 on its second reading set in motion the process to install traffic safety cameras to monitor some of Crestview’s busiest intersections to reduce red-light-running, a problem described by Taylor as “a serious public safety concern that we hear about from citizens all the time.”
With the program now approved, the system could be operational in five-to-six months.
Citations issued under the program will be written by a sworn Crestview police department officer who will review camera video to observe and certify citable violations, the chief said.
The program is revenue-neutral and is not a scheme to make money for the city or the police department, Taylor told the council.
“This is a safety program that will address a very serious problem,” he said. “Right off the bat, the state claims more than half of each fine levied on red-light runners, so it’s definitely not a money-maker.”
There is no cost to Crestview taxpayers to install and activate the program. Expenses are borne by the program’s equipment contractor until the program is operational and receiving fine money from red light scofflaws, the chief said.
Nationwide, red light running causes 22 percent of traffic crashes, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. Data also shows crashes where motorist ignore traffic lights account for 39 percent of the injuries.
In preparing its recommendation for the city council, the Crestview Police Department engaged Sensys America, a traffic solutions company, to conduct a traffic analysis at the Ferdon Boulevard (State Road 85) intersections of Walmart Drive, Redstone Avenue and James Lee Boulevard (U.S. Highway 90), which police crash data identifies as the city’s three most dangerous intersections.
During the 16-hour study period, the company observed 696 red light violations between the three intersections.
Subtracting less-serious violations, such as not stopping before making a right turn on red, the company observed more than 50 serious infractions that could have caused accidents with injuries.
A video posted on the Crestview Police Department’s Facebook account showed more than 15 vehicles running red lights either by racing through the intersection as the light changed or failing to come to a stop before making a right turn on a red light, all within a five-minute period.
“Thirty-four percent of our crashes are at intersections on (State Road) 85,” Taylor said, noting two of the most common factors are following too closely and running the red light.
The IIHS found red light violations were reduced about 40 percent after cameras were introduced and “the effect carried over to nearby signaled intersections not equipped with red light cameras.”
The safety camera program is authorized by the state’s Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program (Florida Statute 316.0083), named for a Manatee County resident who was killed by a red-light runner.
It has been successfully defended as constitutional by the Florida Attorney General’s office on more than a thousand occasions, Taylor said.
Unclear video or situations that cause the slightest doubt will be disregarded, said Taylor.
“When in doubt, throw it out,” will be the guideline, he said.
Video of alleged violations will undergo a three-step vetting process, beginning with the system contractor who will provide violation video to the police department.
The department’s communications center staff will review the video and match license tags with registration information. During that process, more video could be discarded.
Finally, a sworn officer will review the remaining video and determine if a citable violation occurred.
Rear-end collision concerns
During discussion before Monday evening’s final council vote, two residents expressed concern that they had heard red light cameras cause more rear-end collisions.
While increases in such collisions were observed in some studies, they were generally due to driver negligence, such as following too closely, and were more than offset by reductions in “T-bone” crashes, which are generally more severe and result in more injuries, deaths and damage.
“The net effect is positive,” the IIHS reported. “A study sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration evaluated red light camera programs in seven cities. The study found that, overall, right-angle crashes decreased by 25 percent while rear-end collisions increased by 15 percent. Results showed a positive aggregate economic benefit of more than $18.5 million in the seven communities.”
“Not all studies have reported increases in rear-end crashes,” the IIHS said.
Violators will have 30 days to pay the $158 fine caught on camera. If the fines are paid within the 30-day period, because the infraction is a municipal rather than state violation, it will not be reported to the driver’s licensing authority or insurance company.
However, if the fine is not paid on time, the municipal ticket would be rescinded and a state uniform traffic citation would be issued, with points assessed against the violator’s license, their insurance company notified (possibly resulting in a premium increases) and a state fine of $261 collected.
While the goal of the program is to decrease serious accidents, at some point the program, which should be self-sustaining, may generate more funds than are required to maintain the system. If that occurs, the city could establish a Public Safety Trust Fund to be earmarked for equipment and safety programs for the police and fire departments, Taylor said.
All residual funds will be maintained locally in Crestview, the chief said.
“We have a serious problem with red light violations; therefore, we have a definitive need for application of a red light camera program in the interests of public safety,” said Taylor.
Crestview Police Department release