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    State says it was an "accident" that the intersection's yellow time was shortened 1.5 seconds just four days after signing a red light camera contract

    As the city of Fairfax prepares next week to become the first in Virginia to resume the use of red light cameras, the history of a county intersection offers an important lesson regarding the area's first experiment with photo ticketing. Of the thirteen intersections where red light cameras were used in Fairfax County, only the intersection Route 50/Lee-Jackson Highway and Fair Ridge Drive reported a significant accident reduction, according to figures provided in a 2007 report by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (see page 75). It is also a location where the length of the yellow signal was both shortened and lengthened, providing a rare glimpse into the real world effects of each change.

    Back in 1998, Route 50 and Fair Ridge had a serious problem with collisions. About 74,000 vehicles passed through the busy intersection on a typical day, including a significant number of commercial vehicles. VDOT engineers met with representatives of the Fairfax County Fire Department on August 4 that year to come up with an action plan to improve safety at the location.

    "They decided to take several steps to reduce the number of red light runners which they felt were a factor in the crash problem," a VDOT official explained in a 2002 email obtained by TheNewspaper. "These actions included... increase the amber time following the Route 50 through movement to 5.5 seconds."

    The engineers updated the signage at the intersection and enhanced signal visibility. The 1.5 second increase in yellow duration was implemented on August 12, 1998. The accident situation improved significantly.

    About a year later, on October 11, 1999, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors signed a contract with Lockheed Martin IMS (which now does business as Affiliated Computer Services) to issue photo tickets at ten county intersections with the expectation that the company would generate a total of $13 million in citations over the duration of the three-year agreement. Just four days later, the yellow signal timing at Route 50 and Fair Ridge was shortened back to 4.0 seconds.

    According to VDOT, the shortening was accidental, but it did prove useful in making the county's red light camera program appear more effective. The shorter yellow helped the "before" data for the intersection show 362 crashes per year for every million vehicles passing through, placing it back once again among the worst in the county. When the red light camera was activated on February 9, 2001, violations were also high at 250 per month, generating a steady flow of revenue.

    Six weeks later, on March 26, 2001, VDOT decided to increase the yellow timing from 4.0 back to 5.5 seconds. The impact was immediate and dramatic. Average monthly violations dropped from 250 to between 20 and 30 per month -- a 90 percent decrease. The violation rate remained low until the Virginia legislature shut down red light camera programs statewide in 2005. The number of accidents dropped to a rate of 290, reflecting a 20 percent decrease. Although VDOT's 2007 report did find that Fairfax County red light camera intersections experienced a 23 percent increase in accidents overall, this figure would have appeared far worse had the Fair Ridge yellow signal not been increased.

    Armed with this data, a new group, CameraFraud DC, has formed to challenge Fairfax City and other Virginia jurisdictions looking to install red light cameras once again (visit the group's website). CameraFraud got its start in Arizona where members next week plan to unveil a petition drive aimed at gathering enough signatures to hold a referendum on ending photo ticketing throughout Arizona.

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    I live and work in Northern VA. Personally, I think, properly implemented and run, with a sworn officer reviewing the cameras (preferably video) and making the decision to issue a ticket or not, red light cameras are a positive thing. I work in an area that had red light cameras, and live in an area that did not. I'm almost afraid to start across intersections when the light turns green where I live because there's a good chance of as many as 5 cars passing through the intersection after the red... Where I work, they're rare.

    There is an argument for the increase in rear end accidents because more people stop while the light is yellow and they might have been able to clear the intersection... but, isn't the rule supposed to be that the yellow is a warning and a chance to clear the intersection if you're already in it, and that if you can stop, you're supposed to?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jks9199 View Post
    ...isn't the rule supposed to be that the yellow is a warning and a chance to clear the intersection if you're already in it, and that if you can stop, you're supposed to?
    The common sense of the general public would never interfere with a rule. What should happen and what does happen is two different things. The people get to jumpy about getting the ticket and end up stopping unnecessairly and abrutply, causing accidents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jks9199 View Post
    Where I work, they're rare.
    Because your agency has a good reputation for being on top of traffic enforcement and being strict about it. I always minded my manners more driving through there.

    Cameras can't detect drunks. We need cops not cameras.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xiphos View Post
    Cameras can't detect drunks. We need cops not cameras.
    +1300

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    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xiphos View Post
    Because your agency has a good reputation for being on top of traffic enforcement and being strict about it. I always minded my manners more driving through there.

    Cameras can't detect drunks. We need cops not cameras.
    Why not both?

    I'm not at all suggesting that we can just throw up a bunch of cameras, and eliminate all the motor units and other traffic nuts.

    But a camera is there 24/7. It doesn't look away, read a book, and it frees up a cop for calls or just more selective enforcement. As long as a cop is reviewing the violations captured by the camera, and assessing what's going on, making sure that the tags are clear and consistent with the car, etc. -- they're a useful tool. After all, isn't "the purpose of traffic enforcement to obtain voluntary compliance?"
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jks9199 View Post
    Why not both?

    I'm not at all suggesting that we can just throw up a bunch of cameras, and eliminate all the motor units and other traffic nuts.

    But a camera is there 24/7. It doesn't look away, read a book, and it frees up a cop for calls or just more selective enforcement. As long as a cop is reviewing the violations captured by the camera, and assessing what's going on, making sure that the tags are clear and consistent with the car, etc. -- they're a useful tool. After all, isn't "the purpose of traffic enforcement to obtain voluntary compliance?"
    Well, I still have a problem with saying that the owner of the car is responsible for whoever is actually driving the car. If there was a way to positively ascertain who the driver is and then they would get the ticket, then I would support the cameras. I don't think it is right that if I let my dad use my truck for the day and he runs a red light, for me to have to be responsible for it. Yeah I could have not let him drive my truck, but how on earth could I have expected him to run a red light with it? I firmly believe that camera enforcement is about 80% about making money, and 20% about safety.

    And then the flip side of cameras is you can make your license plate such that a camera would have a hard time getting a clear image of it. I got caught by a speed camera in Montgomery Co. MD, but I never got a ticket for it. I'm convinced that the clear plastic license plate cover, due to its reflective nature and slight curvature, kept the camera and its flash from getting a good picture of what my license plate said. I don't know for sure that it was my plate cover that saved me from the ticket, but I sure didn't get a ticket. I knew as soon as I saw the camera flash that I was had. Good thing I didn't get the ticket in the mail. I was about 15 over, running a little late trying to get to the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on May 15th.
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  10. #10
    Jks9199 is online now The Reason People Hate Cops & Causer of War
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    Quote Originally Posted by IndianaFuzz View Post
    Well, I still have a problem with saying that the owner of the car is responsible for whoever is actually driving the car. If there was a way to positively ascertain who the driver is and then they would get the ticket, then I would support the cameras. I don't think it is right that if I let my dad use my truck for the day and he runs a red light, for me to have to be responsible for it. Yeah I could have not let him drive my truck, but how on earth could I have expected him to run a red light with it? I firmly believe that camera enforcement is about 80% about making money, and 20% about safety.

    And then the flip side of cameras is you can make your license plate such that a camera would have a hard time getting a clear image of it. I got caught by a speed camera in Montgomery Co. MD, but I never got a ticket for it. I'm convinced that the clear plastic license plate cover, due to its reflective nature and slight curvature, kept the camera and its flash from getting a good picture of what my license plate said. I don't know for sure that it was my plate cover that saved me from the ticket, but I sure didn't get a ticket. I knew as soon as I saw the camera flash that I was had. Good thing I didn't get the ticket in the mail. I was about 15 over, running a little late trying to get to the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on May 15th.
    The way it worked here, the owner just had to file an affidavit that that they weren't driving, and the ticket would be dismissed. It's a ticket like a parking ticket, no effect on the DMV record. I don't agree with the places that require you to name the driver; that's too much.

    As to the readability of the plate... to me, if there's ANY question, the ticket shouldn't be issued. With the system my agency had, the officer who handled it would actually run the tags, and compare the vehicle. If they didn't match -- no ticket. If the tag wasn't clear enough to run -- no ticket. My agency didn't find the cameras to be much of a money maker; in fact, I recall being told by the chief or deputy chief that they never quite broke even! Or maybe it was they wouldn't have if the company that produced the system hadn't pretty much given it to us.
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