Austin Danforth at the Alexandria Times, has a report on amendments that have been made to the state’s red light ticketing law. As soon as the City finds a vendor to process the tickets, they will be active.
A little history on red light cameras in Alexandria.
On Monday, June 15, 2009, the Alexandria Police Department began an active Photo Red Light Enforcement Campaign to help reduce red-light runners throughout the City. The cameras are located at the following intersections:
For those of you that don’t know, Alexandria and other jurisdictions in Virginia used to have red light cameras until 2005 when the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting their use because of the increase in the amount of accidents they were causing and the ten year experiement had come to an end so they declined to reauthorize photo enforcement.
The Legislature then reversed course after a two year battle with municipal lobbyists and the insurance industry, and re-authorized the use of red light cameras.
So do red light cameras actually make driving safer? No. As P-Diddy used to say – “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby!”
An exhaustive study in 2007 of all seven Virginia red light camera programs showed an overall increase in injury accidents has occurred where the devices are installed. The study was performed by The Virginia Transportation Research Council at the request of the state transportation secretary.
TheNewspaper.com had this to say about the results:
Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a “definite” increase in rear-end accidents and only a “possible” decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed. Camera proponents explain this away by asserting angle accidents are more serious, but this claim has not been scientifically studied according to this report. The rear end collisions caused by the cameras still produce injuries — the original promise of camera proponents was that they would reduce accidents and injuries, not rearrange them.
So if the red light cameras pose a risk to drivers why then has the City of Alexandria decided to bring them back? Money – pure and simple - as the City has missed the revenue that came from the tickets. So what about the 43% increase in accidents that the study found happened in Alexandria after the cameras were installed?
In the Police Department’s press release, Chief David Baker stated, “This grace period will give motorists an opportunity to become familiar with the red-light photo enforcement system in Alexandria. This is a public safety program and our goal is to deter red-light runners and prevent accidents resulting from these violations.”
This is crap and here’s why.
In a March 24, 2008 memo to City Council, Alexandria City Manager James Hartman wrote: “The Red Light Camera program is not considered a core public safety service.” So, they don’t really care about your safety, just your money. There is also a catch to this which we’ll get to in a moment.
TheNewspaper.com continues its well done piece on this by breaking down the politics that has gone on behind the scenes (emphasis mine):
The return of red light cameras is helping to boost ticket collections for Fiscal Year 2010 to $4.6 million, an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year. With three cameras installed, gross photo ticket revenues are expected to be $450,000 per year with private vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) pocketing $180,000. Payments to ATS are made through a “cost neutral” contract which compensates ATS on a per-ticket basis up to a level capped at approximately $5000 per intersection per month. The group CameraFraud.com argues that this arrangement directly violates a state law banning per-ticket payments for red light camera programs.
This was one of the amendments which fixed the law.
The catch? When the law was reauthorized in 2007, lawmakers failed to update the old law which had a loophole. You do NOT have to pay the red light ticket if it is mailed to you.
The Virginia Transportation Research Council explains this in their study of the red light camera progam:
Although the statute permits the jurisdiction to make the initial attempt to summon the accused to court via mail, if the person fails to respond, he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice. However, personal service on all violators is obviously a very expensive proposition, involving many personnel hours, and would defeat one of the primary motivating factors for employing automated detection systems in the first place’a reduction in the number of officers required to enforce red light laws.
Thus, unless a jurisdiction is willing to devote resources to implementing extensive in-hand service, citations mailed for red light camera violations become essentially unenforceable. The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact. Again, this is a practical, but not legal, challenge. (Page 17)
So, fellow drivers be extra cautious when traveling through the above named intersections. And remember to look out for us pedestrians when we are in the middle of the crosswalk.