Web Advance: Are red-light cameras the answer?
Recently, the Virginia Generally Assembly passed legislation allowing the use of cameras to nab red-light runners, a technology for which both County and City officials have shown support. In the March 1 edition of the Hook, we examine the debate over the use of red-light cameras, and specifically the argument that intersections might be safer simply by increasing yellow-light times.
As officials point out, the intersection of 29 and Rio is one of the places where cameras might be installed. However, in a web-exclusive accompanying our cover story, this Hook video shows that the light at the intersection of 29 and Rio routinely turns yellow before the second car in line at the stoplight crosses the intersection. Around 9:10am on February 12, when a reporter visited, a car ran a red light on each of the five light changes we monitored. In one case, as the video shows, a school bus was in the intersection when the light turned red.
"It's a rather short cycle at that intersection," says VDOT spokesperson Lou Hatter, explaining that VDOT traffic engineers use a standardized formula to calculate yellow-light times (between three and six seconds), and that all lights in town operate on a computerized system. "Short green cycles at intersections like Rio are the result of trying to keep traffic moving on 29, especially after they synchronized the lights," says Hatter, adding that even the smallest time adjustment on the lights along 29 could snarl traffic. "Remember, it's a major highway."
Although Hatter says he's not aware of any data that would suggest longer yellow-light times make intersections safer, he seemed open to the idea and expressed concern that lights were turning red on drivers crossing 29 at Rio.
Read more about the red-light camera debate in the March 1 edition of the Hook.