Pickerington looks into red light cameras

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Pickerington City Council authorized Redflex Traffic Systems to study intersections along State Route 256 as possible locations for red light cameras.

If Redflex concludes that the intersections – including Refugee, Tussing and Diley roads – experience enough violations to merit action, Pickerington may decide to hire Redflex to install and operate red light cameras.

According to Redflex customer service manager Joe Moore, the cameras are programmed to anticipate when a car will be unable to stop at a traffic light based on the speed it is traveling.

When a car fails to sufficiently decelerate, a photo of the license plate is snapped to identify the vehicle’s owner, then a few seconds later a second photo captures the violation. A video of the incident is also recorded.

Redflex collects the images and sends them to the police department. The police then determine if the incidents qualify as civil infractions, and if they do, then Redflex issues a citation to the vehicle’s owner.

Once the vehicle owner receives the citation, they may pay the ticket, file a nomination that someone else was driving the car and that they should be held responsible, or argue that they had a legitimate reason for breaking the law.

The Ohio Supreme Court held red light cameras as legal, provided that no pointsare placed on the vehicle owner’s license, Moore said.

In addition to people who run red lights, the cameras would capture people who fail to stop before turning right on red and speeders. The cameras can also be programmed to catch people who turn right on red during restricted hours.

The cameras cannot catch people who enter an intersection on a green light even though traffic is jammed, and thereby block the intersection after the light turns red.

Redflex would install and operate the cameras for no fee to the city, the business would profit by collecting a portion of the citation.

The city is under no obligation to use Redflex after the company completes its study, however Pickerington cannot use Redflex’s research to hire another company.

Moore said that Redflex would not place a red light camera at an intersection that does not have a high quantity of traffic violations. The company would not profit by installing $100,000 of equipment in a location where no citations would be issued.

Moore said that, in terms of needing red light cameras, "(State Route) 256 is a sure bet."

Pickerington City Manager Tim Hansley said the cameras are "really not about revenue.  Revenue becomes second to safety."

The cameras would free police officers from watching traffic enabling them to patrol neighborhoods and respond faster to criminal acts.

Council viewpoints

Councilman Brian Wisniewski voted against allowing Redflex to begin a traffic study on the basis that he had many questions yet to be answered about the cameras and the company.

Wisniewski said that, while Redflex offered statistics supporting that red light cameras reduce accident rates, he has read studies reporting the opposite is true – that red light cameras result in increased rear collisions. People may "slam on their brakes" due to the "fear factor" of receiving a citation and be hit from behind.

Wisniewski said he was "somewhat troubled that if my 16-year-old kid lets a friend drive my car and they run a red light. Then, I get a ticket."

Councilman Jeff Fix said that, during the several months that Redflex conducts the traffic study, "I am confident Councilman Wisniewski will get answers and we can move forward."

Councilwoman Tricia Sanders said budget restraints have limited neighborhood patrols, but that the red light cameras would free officers to drive through communities.

"As a mom I am thrilled with having police in the neighborhood," Sanders said.

Councilwoman Cristie Hammond provided the other dissenting vote. She said the city has not exhausted alternatives for relieving problem intersections. Hammond also argued that a traffic study should be conducted by an independent source – not  the company trying to sell red light cameras.

The concept "feels very much 1984-ish," Hammond said.

"The only time those cameras will fire is when infraction occurs," Councilman Brian Sauer said. "At which case if police (responded), if you wanted to look at it (as Orwellian Big Brother) your privacy is violated regardless."

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