Red-light cameras’ impact unclear

Posted 5/7/10

Littleton City Council got its first look last week at data collected from the red light cameras at the corner of Broadway and Littleton Boulevard. …

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Red-light cameras’ impact unclear


Littleton City Council got its first look last week at data collected from the red light cameras at the corner of Broadway and Littleton Boulevard.

But it may be too early to say whether or not the cameras have reduced the number of traffic accidents.

Littleton Police Department Division Cmdr. Bill Christensen compiled the data, which spanned six months, from when the Intersection Safety Program was implemented in August 2009 through Feb. 28, 2010. The system was installed to monitor left-turn and through lanes of eastbound and northbound traffic at the intersection.

During the six months, there were seven traffic accidents, most of them rear-end collisions, at this intersection. The previous two years had eight accidents each, Christensen said.

“This time period is not adequate to determine if the red light systems are reducing accidents,” Christensen wrote in the report.

Christensen said there were numerous variables that could have affected the results, including seasonal issues like snow, school schedules and construction work.

Although some say the technology leads to more rear-end collisions, Christensen says that is not the case here.

“I reviewed each (accident) and none indicated in the report were anybody trying to stop at the last minute,” he said.

The number of accidents might not be down significantly, but the number of violations is. Drivers who run a red light are photographed and mailed a notice of violation, along with a $75 fine. Violations were down from 630 in September 2009 to 426 in January 2010 — a 32 percent decrease.

“It certainly appears that the driving public is becoming more compliant with the traffic signals, which is very positive,” Christensen said.

Data was incomplete for February because of a Feb. 8 accident that damaged a camera pole. The system was back up and running on March 6.

Christensen said he has heard positive feedback about the cameras from pedestrians who cross that intersection.

“They believe it is safer,” he said.

Eighteen people have been ticketed twice, but none more than twice. About 50 people, or less than 2 percent, of the total number of violators have requested a hearing in municipal court. Most of those cases, Christensen said, involved people who had sold their vehicle and the notice was sent to the wrong person or someone else was driving their vehicle.

Littleton Mayor Doug Clark was the only councilmember to vote against the red-light enforcement last year, saying he did not want citizens to perceive the technology as a revenue generator for the city. The average monthly payments for violations at the Broadway and Littleton Boulevard intersection is $32,907. Littleton pays $6,000 per month, per approach, according to Christensen.

“If the purpose is to reduce accidents, six months is not long enough to know,” Clark said. “I have sat in that intersection waiting and seen the thing flash, which means people are going through that light.”

Councilmember Peggy Cole said she was glad the cameras have seemed to improve the general courtesy and decreased speed in the intersection. Cole added she would like to know how many violations there were during the 30-day grace period.

From mid-July to mid-August American Traffic Solutions mailed a warning notice to drivers who failed to stop at a red light at the intersection.

“I do think it’s of value to note how many violations there were during the grace period,” Cole said.

Councilmembers and residents may just have to wait to see if the red-light cameras have any effect on reducing the number of traffic accidents. Two more red-light cameras, one at Santa Fe Drive and Mineral Avenue, and one at Santa Fe Drive and Bowles Avenue, have been installed and went live in January. Christensen said that by the end of 2010, the city might have more meaningful statistics.

“I believe that we will have better numbers and better analysis at the end of this year,” he said.


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