- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 22:23
- Written by Super User
(Photo: United States Department of Transportation) The Wilmington City Council approved at their August 21, meeting to renew their contract for one year with American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Arizona to Provide Automated Red Light Enforcement Services.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
WILMINGTON, N.C. - The Wilmington City Council approved at their August 21, meeting to renew their contract for one year with American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Arizona to Provide Automated Red Light Enforcement Services. At some intersections within City limits there are cameras mounted that snap photos of vehicles and their license plates when they run a red light. That photo is used to send a fine to vehicle owners. The program is called Safelight. The SafeLight Program's goal is to decrease the number of motorists who run red lights and the crashes they cause. A violation occurs when a motorist enters an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red. Motorists already in an intersection when the signal changes to red - when waiting to turn, for example - aren't red light runners. The system automatically photographs the license plates of vehicles whose drivers run red lights. The cameras provide 24-hour surveillance. When a violation occurs, the camera records the date, time, speed of the vehicle, the time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, and a photo showing the violation. Citations are mailed to the registered vehicle owner and the owner is responsible for returning the citation to the SafeLight Program with information regarding who was driving the vehicle. If the car had been reported stolen at the time of the violation, the owner must submit a copy of the filed police report. Instructions for transferring the responsibility for the citation is listed on the back of the citation.
Don Bennett, City Traffic Engineer, explained the renewal would maintain the current rates with a cost of the contract at around $480,000 per year.
Council member Laura Padgett said a number of emails were sent to the City and one listed a number of cities mostly in California with cheaper rates per camera. She said, "Why is the renewal not cheaper than the original contract because the cameras have been bought and paid for."
Bennett said California has different laws and programs plus new cameras have been installed at all thirteen sites in the City to replace older cameras that were installed in 2001.
Bennett said he checked with some systems in California that were running on eight-year-old equipment. In 2010, a vendor stopped doing business in North America.
Padgett asked if that older equipment was still operating and what the difference is between North Carolina and California law.
Bennett said, "California law allows it to be a criminal citation" and actually photographs driver's faces. He explained, "We are just a civil citation. It is different technology than ours."
Mayor Bill Saffo said, "I believe this is a very good program that saves lives through reduced accidents at those intersections."
Bennett said the cameras reduce accidents from 50 to 60% depending on the location. Also, by state law the City is required to dedicate 90% of the face value proceeds of all citations directly to the county school system. Last year the City gave $790,000 to the school system.
The Council voted unanimously to renew the contract.
Recently leaders in Cary, NC, ended their red-light-camera program largely due to a loophole present in Cary, Knightdale and Raleigh. In those municipalities, all a person has to do is sign a sworn affidavit saying it wasn't them behind the wheel. State law povides that vehicle owners aren't responsible if they were not driving at the time.
That scenario doesn't apply to the City of Wilmington.
The fine for running a SafeLight traffic signal is $50. If the citation is not paid within 30 days after the mail date of the citation, then a $50 late penalty is added to the total cost. Appeals are heard through an administrative process coordinated by the SafeLight Program. An independent hearing officer hears the appeal. Instructions for filing an appeal are posted on the back of the citation.