Virtual cops: Supes okay photo red-light district
"It's just like having an officer sitting there," Albemarle police Chief John Miller told the Supes.
Police tracked red-light runners at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road, one of the proposed photo-red spots, on June 29. In a 12-hour period, 121 drivers ran red lights, said Miller. U.S. 29 and Hydraulic, and Richmond and Stony Point roads are the other intersections destined for cameras.
Violators will receive three photos of their traffic transgressions, said Miller, and the cameras start clicking .5 seconds after the light turns red. A videotape of the violation will be available online as well.
A police officer will review all alleged violations to reduce erroneous ticketing, Miller assured the supervisors. Chair David Slutzky noted that when photo red first started, he received notice of a violation in a town he'd never visited–- six hours away.
Being captured on film means a $50 fine, and can be appealed with a police officer without going to court. "No court, no points," said Miller.
And while the police chief said the cameras will reduce accidents and improve safety, critics argue the devices increase the number of rear-end collisions 27 percent, according to a study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council.
"I keep hearing the word 'safety,'" said Edward Strauss. "Good Lord, people. If you want to make  safer, build the western bypass. This is a revenue enhancer."
Steve Yelton argued that better intersection engineering and a ban on cellphone use while driving would reduce red light running.
People stuck in the intersection when the light turns red will not get a ticket, said Miller. And it will still be possible to go right on red as long as the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
Despite their enthusiasm for the ticketing technology, the board expressed concern about cost. "We do expect this to pay for itself," said Jouett District Supervisor Dennis Rooker.
The cameras cost $4,500 a month at each intersection, requiring three tickets a day to break even. "If we don't meet that, it's no cost to us, and we shut it down," said Miller.
But he reminded the board of the 121 redlight-runners in a 12-hour period, and suggested that having to pull the plug on the cameras isn't necessarily a bad thing if it means fewer stoplight scofflaws.