From AP, staff reports
At least two Tennessee cities are ending their use of red light traffic cameras, but officials in other towns say use of the cameras is modifying bad driving habits.
Mount Juliet in Middle Tennessee ended use of the cameras Tuesday. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/ZH0VqS) reported Vice Mayor James Maness says citations funneled too much money to an Arizona-based contractor and distracted police officers. In the Hamilton County city of Red Bank, the cameras are also being switched off this month.
Maness said American Traffic Solutions got two-thirds of the money generated by fines and city officers had to review camera shots before citations could be issued.
“They’re pocketing the money. It’s tying up our officers here in the city,” Maness said last week.
The city realized about $70,000 per year under the program.
But Gallatin police say traffic accidents have dropped more than 31 percent since the city installed four traffic cameras in 2006.
“We’ve always called it the halo effect,” Officer Bill Storment said. “Because we’re changing that driving behavior, it translates to people driving safer everywhere, and that reduces accidents everywhere.”
Union City utilizes mobile speed violation monitoring systems, as well as intersection safety cameras. The city has a contract for the cameras through May 2015.
Police Chief Perry Barfield said the traffic cameras are a contributing factor to the reduction of the number of accidents and even the number of officer-issued citations in the city.
He said 2011 was the first full year the cameras were in use. That year, about 19,000 incidents were processed, with 12,163 citations issued. In 2012, those numbers dropped to 14,769 and 8,630, respectively.
Barfield said Union City received $120,206 in payments from those citations in 2012. They are deposited into a special fund, which is used to repair the city’s roadways and to pay for fuel for the mobile speed violation monitoring systems.
Clarksville Police Chief Al Ansley says he thinks the cameras change motorists’ habits. There was sharp criticism when Clarksville put in traffic cameras in 2009.
In Knoxville, the city is adding red-light cameras at four more intersections. There are already 15 intersections under surveillance, but cameras are being turned off at two where traffic crashes have declined.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Published in The Messenger 1.11.13