––––– Original Message –––––
From: Gene Quinn
To: Patrick Hasson (FHWA)
David Smith (FHWA)
Ernie Huckaby (FHWA)
Michael Halladay (FHWA)
Raj S. Ghaman PE (FHWA)
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 12:01 PM
Subject: Red Light Cameras/“Red Light Running”/Signal Timings
Dear Patrick Hasson at the Federal Highway Administration,
The articles and information below address matters of considerable concern and importance as regards safety and equity of red light camera enforcement programs and the closely related matter of change interval signal timings, particularly the yellow time duration.
At US50 and Fair Ridge Drive in Fairfax County, VA., the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) increased the yellow from 4.00 seconds to 5.50 seconds on 3/26/01 as per VDOT. The red light camera was activated on 2/9/01 as per Fairfax County, who controls the enforcement program. US50 at Fair Ridge is a downhill high–speed approach. There are three through lanes and one each exclusive left and right turn lanes. It is a major commuter route with a considerable degree of commercial traffic. The posted speed limit is 45 MPH. The 85th percentile speed is estimated at 50–55 MPH. Over fourteen hours of videotaping has been done since the increase to the yellow, the last of which was done just recently. No entries on red have been observed and the intersection is much calmer than similar intersections elsewhere with shorter yellows. This intersection was identified by VDOT last summer as one of the worst in northern Virginia for “red light running”. I was told that VDOT was still awaiting, as of the middle of last week, violation and citation data from the camera vendor that would allow for a detailed analysis.
As regards red light camera enforcement at RT7 and Towlston Road in Fairfax County, MSNBC reported on 2/20/01 http://stacks.msnbc.com/local/wrc/620500.asp “And, in Fairfax County, one high–ranking police official told News 4 that he believes the camera at one particular intersection was placed there, by Lockheed–Martin, for financial purposes. He said the intersection of Towlston Road and Route 7 has a low accident rate but a high volume of traffic, which would make it a cash cow for the contractor.” In another news report, MSNBC reported (date uncertain but may be 3/30/01) [RT 7 and Towlston Road camera, Fairfax County’s first, went operational in early October, 2000] http://www.msnbc.com/local/wwbt/361510.asp “Fairfax police have used the cameras since last October. Each person who runs the red is caught on camera Ð and billed $50. “For about the first 12 minutes we were doing some testing we had five people run it,” noted Bruce Taylor of VDOT in Fairfax.”
Notice that five in 12 minutes is 25 entries on red per hour. Could the four second yellow on the light at this high speed (posted 55 MPH) approach have been causing the problem, or at least making it far worse than it otherwise would be? Contrast the statistic with no entries on red in fourteen hours of video taping at US 50 and Fair Ridge after the yellow was increased just 1.5 seconds. Keep in mind too it is the same driving population, the roads being just a few miles apart.
As you know, the IIHS published a study in 1998 entitled “Red Light Running and Sensible Countermeasures”. One of the locations as per IIHS was US 50 and Fillmore Street in Arlington County (Site #1 in the study). That location is similar to US50 and Fair Ridge in Fairfax County except the downhill approach is steeper. The study says there was four seconds of yellow time on the light when the data was collected between NOV 94 and MAR 95 (same as at US50 and Fair Ridge back when it had four seconds of yellow and was one of the worst locations in northern Virginia for “red light running”). The IIHS study says the four seconds of yellow time was “adequate”, presumably meaning it met national standards. Arlington County said that the yellow time was increased to 4.50 seconds in August 1997, which would be after the data was collected but before the study was published. This is a camera enforced location. There are no indications in the study publication that the sensible countermeasure of lengthening the yellow was attempted. In a previous message to you (4/19/01...copy below) I expressed my concern that statistics shown on the FHWA website indicating that people run red lights in Virginia once every five minutes during peak hour and once every twelve minutes on average throughout the day might be based on this study and may be faulty. I asked you to look into this matter and you said you would. I have not heard from you regarding your findings but I see that the FHWA website entries remained as of 6/16/01 http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/fourthlevel/pro_res_srlr_faq.htm :
“How often do drivers run red lights?
A study conducted over several months at a busy intersection in Arlington County, Virginia, an urban area outside Washington, D.C., indicates that motorists frequently run red lights. On average, a motorist ran a red light every 12 minutes. During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. For example, between 8 and 9 a.m., a motorist ran a red light every 5 minutes.”
What were your findings? Was the four seconds of yellow on the light at US50 and Fillmore in Arlington, when so much “red light running” was being counted, adequate as the IIHS report says? If it was, should the yellow light be set back to 4.00 seconds? Or should the 4.50 second yellow light, in light of the excellent results at US50 and Fair Ridge in Fairfax County, be increased?
I am concerned about direct web links on the FHWA website to lobby groups that are promoting cameras. Example:
“11. What groups can I contact for more information about solving the red light running problem?
There are several groups that are working to solve the red light running problem:
The National Organization for Traffic and Intersection Safety (NOTIS), an offshoot of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (http://www.saferoads.org), was created to advance traffic intersection safety through the enactment of red light running photo–enforcement enabling legislation and other appropriate measures. The contact for NOTIS is John Moulden, at (301) 681–8989.”
Is the FHWA using government resources to promote a political agenda of groups with interests, financial and otherwise, in these cameras? It does not go without notice that virtually the entire STOP RED LIGHT RUNNING campaign website by FHWA is devoted to advancing the photo enforcement agenda and almost none of it is devoted to engineering. I suppose Rodney Slater meant it when he said on 4/30/98 “red light running is a leading cause of accidents and must be dealt with by significant law enforcement actions”. http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/programs/srlr.htm
When did FHWA become a law enforcement agency?
Here is the FHWA main web page entry (red highlights added) http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ :
Stop Red Light Running
Each year, more than 1.8 million intersection crashes occur. In 1998, red light running crashes accounted for 89,000 crashes, 80,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths. Public costs exceed $7 billion. The goal of the Stop Red Light Running (SRLR) Program is to reestablish respect for traffic signals to enhance the safety of drivers and pedestrians in communities nationwide, while reducing the number of trauma center admissions caused by this traffic problem.
On the George Washington Memorial Parkway at Slaters Lane in Alexandria, VA. the three second yellow was producing entries on red of 40 or more per hour as per recent news reports (and that may be just one direction). An Alexandria official said in an newspaper editorial he would implement countermeasures to address the problem but when I suggested they increase the yellow to five seconds to accommodate prevailing conditions at the location (NO COST), they responded by saying the three seconds complies with national standards. What does that say about the national standards?
In Beaverton, Oregon, one news report said the City of Beaverton counted 55 “red light runners” in three hours last summer (summer 2000) at their first proposed camera site (18.33 per hour). Another newscast has city representatives identifying the intersection as one of their worst for accidents. Beaverton officials admitted there were “entry on red” problems in April of 1998 (see below). According to news reports, Beaverton says the lights have not been changed since 1996, which strikes me as a profound admission in light of the dangerous conditions that the City was acknowledging itself. Beaverton says, according to recent news reports, their yellow lights generally meet national standards. Now here we go again with those national standards?.
http://www.channel6000.com/c6k/news/stories/news–980402–231313.html April 2, 1998
Excerpt: Portland and Beaverton have been using photo radar for a couple of years and both cities say it’s made a big difference. Like photo radar, the legislature must approve the use of red–light cameras.
Beaverton’s Linda Adlard will be at the next session leading the charge.
“We have numerous drivers running red lights all the time here,” Adlard told KOIN. “That is just a scenario which is asking for people to be killed. It’s difficult to use police officers in that case because of course a police officer chasing you through that red light is also dangerous.”
QUESTIONS: Why didn’t Beaverton implement the proscribed engineering countermeasure of lengthening the yellow at their problem intersections which they admitted were dangerous in 1998? In the summer of 2000? They already did the measure of effectiveness test for the yellow and judged the yellow inadequate when they were counting all those entries on red. Could the desire for and expectation of cameras have overwhelmed good judgment?
It says in the 1994 ITE Informational Report on page 9 “As in all cases, engineering judgment should be utilized in the timing of vehicle signal change intervals.” Key word: engineering....not politicians and not people who tell them what they can get away with. Do you see how easily these red light cameras can influence the decision making of people.....and not in a good way? I wonder if Beaverton would implement the proscribed countermeasure of lengthening the yellow now?
News reports from San Diego indicate problems. Changing yellow time on traffic lights to support and promote camera operations, as indicated in the news reports, is both wrong and dangerous.
News reports from Arizona indicate that Mesa’s red light camera program has problems. News reports indicate that contract provisions between the camera vendor and the community seek to prevent changing the yellow times where cameras are installed. Nevertheless, yellow times were lengthened anyway by Mesa. Removal of cameras is being considered as per news reports. Why? Not enough citations being issued.
Statistics show that “entry on red” accidents have been increasing three times or so faster than other accident categories beginning circa 1992–1994. How could that be? Could it be that as more and more places adopted the latest national standards be involved? Could it be that the anticipated availability of cameras has encouraged this crisis?
Improper operation of signals, whether shortening the yellow or failing to lengthen it when conditions clearly establish the need to, produce the same result, unnecessary entries on red that are often dangerous.
Below you’ll see that “experts” say that an additional second or so of yellow isn’t going to change the dangerous trend and that a fraction of a second doesn’t make that much difference. You’ll also see that adding just 1.7 seconds of yellow time at one of San Diego’s signals resulted in entries on red dropping 97%. California has a fine of $271.00. Using a fine amount of $271.00 and the figures in the news report, in June the fines would be $298,100.00 (1,100 times $271.00). After the increase in the yellow, the citations dropped to 35 ($9,485.00). That is a reduction of $288,615.00 per month, or $3.5 million dollars per year. Decide for yourself how much of a difference a small amount of yellow time makes. (see news report(s) below) Don’t forget US 50 and Fair Ridge in Fairfax County where “red light running” has dropped to almost nothing after 1.5 seconds of yellow was added to the light. If the yellow time is not that important, then why the contract provision in Mesa restricting changing it once places with entry on red problems were found and cameras installed?
Please help in encouraging, whenever and whenever you can, a return to using sound engineering practice as the first step, not the last, in addressing entry on red problems. FHWA should never have removed the mandatory requirement for engineering studies when designing signal timings (which existed for a long time) as it did just recently in the 12/2000 edition of the MANUAL ON UNIFORM TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES (MUTCD). The decision serves no purpose other than to further this red light camera feeding frenzy, including the inappropriate and improper operation of traffic signals. Using the words of the Beaverton representative in April of 1998: “That is just a scenario which is asking for people to be killed.”
Folks who are enthusiastic about these cameras should think a little longer term. Just about any amount of yellow time, which determines how fast the lights turn red, seems to now meet national standards. Few places seem willing anymore to implement the engineering countermeasure of lengthening the yellow to accommodate intersection specific conditions, a routine procedure not too many years ago. Instead, far too often there seems to be a mindset of we’ll do only what we can get away with. Who polices the signal timings? People should think about the legacy they are leaving the kids of their kids. Imagine their world twenty or thirty years hence when there are cameras everywhere, including photo radar speed cameras. Imagine the vacation of the future when the grandchildren and their family get home and mystery tickets start piling up in the mail from places they never even knew existed. How do they defend themselves? Answer: They don’t.......as they were already deemed guilty by legal books that were officially cooked against them...by Grandma and Grandpa. Did you know that people fought and died to prevent just that from happening here in America?
Who’s becoming disrespectful of traffic signals? Answer: EVERYBODY, including the camera enthusiasts and peddlers and including jurisdictions that offer up half baked reasons for not doing what is obvious and often the only thing needed, providing adequate yellow time. What is just one of many outcomes from an improperly operated traffic signal? “Disobedience of the signal indications is encouraged.” [MUTCD 1988 Edition, page 4B–2, FHWA] As a reminder of just how important this issue of signal timings can be: “In 1998, red light running crashes accounted for 89,000 crashes, 80,000 injuries and nearly 1,000 deaths.”
Member – National Motorists Association http://motorists.org/
“The length of a yellow signal is important,” said Richard A. Retting, senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute. But giving a driver a half–second or a second more yellow isn’t going to change the dangerous trend, he said. “A fraction of a second doesn’t make that much difference. This is not about splitting hairs.” [Robin Franzen, City Officials Defend Traffic Systems As Fair, Portland Oregonian, 6/13/01] (italics and blue highlight added)
“Red Light lawyers say they have confidential reports from the City that reveal a one second change a month before the intersection got the photo enforcement camera. That change from four seconds to three, meant more than a thousand tickets a month issued at the Grand and Mission intersection.” [KSWBTV Newscast 6/15/01] (italics and blue highlight added)
“Back in June 2000, the yellow light at Mission Bay Drive and Grand Avenue was three seconds. More than 2,300 people ran the red light resulting in more than 1,100 citations.” ...... “When the yellow light time was increased to 4.7 seconds, the amount of violations and citations dropped significantly. There were 69 violations and 35 citations.” [KFMB TV Newscast 6/14/01] (italics and blue highlight added)
Red light cameras
New evidence of tampering
Published June 15 2001, 3:34 PM PDT
SAN DIEGO –– There’s new evidence that proves the City and Lockheed Martin changed the yellow light time at the Grand and Mission Boulevard intersection.
Red Light lawyers say they have confidential reports from the City that reveal a one second change a month before the intersection got the photo enforcement camera. That change from four seconds to three, meant more than a thousand tickets a month issued at the Grand and Mission intersection.
All 19 cameras are shut down pending a lawsuit and police audit. Copyright © 2001, KSWB–TV, San Diego
ATTORNEYS SAY RED LIGHT CAMERAS ARE ONLY FOR PROFIT
(06–14–2001) – Red light cameras have stirred up a lot of controversy and just a few days ago, the city shut down all 19 cameras around San Diego. Thursday, two attorneys say they have evidence the real purpose for the cameras are to make money.
The city has collected a reported $1.75 million from the controversial program. The cameras generated about 44,000 tickets last year.
Attorney Coleen Cusack has been working around the clock to study confidential documents she received last week from Lockheed Martin and the City of San Diego.
She says the paperwork proves that San Diego’s red light camera system is aimed at making money and not protecting the public. “We’ll be asking that they dismiss all of the cases because the program itself is not being used to increase safety at the intersections.”
She adds that the money is not even for the city, but it’s generating revenue for a private corporation.
Cusack says they do it by installing red light cameras at intersections where the yellow light lasts only about three seconds. It creates what’s known as a dilemma zone, where the driver can’t stop safely and can’t make it through the intersection before the light turns red.
Cusack says these documents prove the city and Lockheed Martin know that extending the duration of a yellow light reduces the amount of violations.
Back in June 2000, the yellow light at Mission Bay Drive and Grand Avenue was three seconds. More than 2,300 people ran the red light resulting in more than 1,100 citations.
When the yellow light time was increased to 4.7 seconds, the amount of violations and citations dropped significantly. There were 69 violations and 35 citations.
Because Lockheed Martin gets $70 from every $271 fine that is paid, Cusack says the company doesn’t want to install red lights at intersections that won’t pay off.
She points out that internal documents show several intersections that were considered, were rejected because the yellow lights were too long.
GOP Leader: Localities Sacrificing Safety, Constitutional Principles for Ticket Revenue
Cameras Have Armey Seeing Red
By Joseph A. D’Agostino
The Week of June 18, 2001
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R.–Tex.) is crusading against the red–light cameras that have sprouted up at intersections around the country, saying that they violate constitutional principles and that localities have deliberately shortened yellow–light intervals in order to raise revenue.
Traffic will be safer, said Armey, when local governments increase yellow intervals and stop trying to trap motorists in petty red–light violations.
“We are responsible for protecting people’s constitutional rights,” Armey told Human Events. “We believe that this is an intrusion against people’s constitutional rights.”
“We have the state legislature in New Jersey that agrees with us,” said Armey, “and we have the supreme court in Alaska that agrees with us. We ought to hold some hearings on this.”
No committee has yet committed to holding hearings on Armey’s proposal.
“There’s been an evolution of the federal standards and recommendations that has moved us away from the time–honored and effective business of using the length of the yellow light to ensure safety at intersections,” Armey said. “We believe that they have consciously done just the opposite of good yellow light policy to increase the stream of revenue.”
“They have not demonstrated any improvement in public well–being because of these cameras,” Armey added.
The House Republican leader said he does not want to use federal regulations to micromanage states and localities in their use of cameras for issuing traffic citations. “I am against that on principle,” he said.
Instead, Armey opposes traffic cameras of any kind, period, as a matter of constitutional principle. “I have taken the same position with regard to speeding cameras,” he said. “The problem with electronic surveillance is that you are denied your right to face your accuser and you are assumed to be guilty until you have proved yourself to be innocent. In fact, you are assumed to be there. A police officer has immediate identification of who’s driving the car,” he said.
Armey warned that the United States could end up like England. “I would say that I could leave my residence in London, travel all around town and make three or four stops, and there would be a record of everywhere I went, the surveillance there is that thorough,” he said.
Said Armey spokesman Richard Diamond, “The British government has proposed increasing the number of tickets issued by cameras from 550,000 to ten million a year.” At present, no American municipality is planning to use traffic cameras for anything other than red–light running and speeding. A report prepared by Armey’s office says, “Today’s formula for calculating yellow times yields yellow times that can in some cases be about 30% shorter than the older formula.” Armey’s office collected traffic studies from around the country and found that when the yellow–light time increased, red–light running decreased. In Mesa, Ariz., for example, the number of vehicles entering an intersection on red dropped by 73%; in Georgia, by 75%; at sites in Virginia and Maryland, 77% or more, including two sites where researchers reported that the red–light running problem was “virtually eliminated.”
But lengthening yellow times does not raise revenue.
Fifty cities in ten states now use red–light cameras. In 18 months, San Diego’s 19 cameras have raked in $30 million. West Hollywood, Calif., earns $4.9 million annually from its cameras. New York City’s 15 cameras made $5.4 million in their first year.
San Diego’s red–light camera ticketing program suffered a setback this month after the city discovered a glitch that meant some motorists may have been ticketed unjustly. After a lawsuit was filed in February, discovery turned up a “Potential Intersection Worksheet” prepared for the city when it was deciding where to install red–light cameras. Five of the potential sites were rejected because “long yellow, vio [violator] volume not there.” Other noted reasons for rejections included “long yellow phase” and “timing clears out traffic.”
A copy of an agreement between Mesa and Lockheed Martin, the company with which the city contracted to provide its red–light cameras, prohibited the city from lengthening yellow times at intersections with Lockheed cameras. The contract gave Lockheed a cut of every ticket issued by its cameras.
Last year, a red–light camera in Washington, D.C., was turned off after the local police department admitted that the intersection where it was installed was confusing, but not until after over $1 million was raised, most of which will not be refunded.
Shortening of yellow times has not happened around the country through coincidence, Armey’s report says. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) produces a traffic management handbook that is widely used by local governments. The 1985 handbook stated, “When the per cent of vehicles that are last through the intersection which enter on red exceeds that which is locally acceptable (many agencies use a value of one to three per cent), the yellow interval should be lengthened until the percentage conforms to local standards.” By 1994, the “one to three per cent” recommendation was edited out, and a suggestion that yellow–light intervals might actually be “shortened” was inserted. Now the ITE handbook says: “When the percentage of vehicles that enter on a red indication exceeds that which is locally acceptable, the yellow change interval may be lengthened (or shortened) until the percentage conforms to local standards, or enforcement can be used instead.”
In 1976, ITE found that the average intersection where traffic moved at approximately 35 mph required 4.64 seconds of time for traffic to clear the intersection once the signal changed from green to yellow. The 1999 ITE formula recommends 3.8 seconds of yellow light time.
Diamond said that studies purporting to show that red light cameras reduce accidents are flawed. “They don’t even track changes in yellow light times to see if that is what causes reductions in accidents,” he said. The most comprehensive study produced on the effect of red–light cameras was done by the Australian Road Research Board, which concluded in 1995 after ten years of monitoring intersections, “This study suggests that the installation of the RLC [red–light camera] at these sites did not provide any reduction in accidents, rather there have been increases in rear end and adjacent approaches accidents.”
© Human Events, 2001
Respond to this story.
High Point Enterprise June 13, 2001, Wednesday LENGTH: 427 words
HEADLINE: Attorney to File Suit over Use of Cameras at High Point, N.C., Intersections
BYLINE: By Owen Covington
BODY: A Greensboro attorney said Tuesday he will file a lawsuit in Guilford County Superior Court today to challenge the use of red light cameras at High Point intersections.
Attorney Marshall Hurley, who is representing High Point resident Henry Shavitz, said he met with his client Tuesday to finalize the papers for the lawsuit.
The suit will focus on the process set up in High Point to handle appeals of the citations issued by the cameras, the disbursement of the money generated by the citations and the legality of using the cameras, Hurley said.
"We’ll be challenging every aspect from the beginning to the end," Hurley said. "The heart of the complaint is that the system prejudges and makes the determination of guilt without a chance for the person to defend themselves." Hurley said he did not wish to discuss details about the complaint, including what parties are named as defendants, until the complaint has been filed.
Hurley would not say how the decision to file the lawsuit came about, but said his client is eager to challenge the use of red light cameras.
"Mr. Shavitz is a person of great courage and great insight into the law and is courageous to challenge this," Hurley said. "The system is flawed." Shavitz declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, but said he will comment after the lawsuit has been filed. The first red light cameras were installed in High Point at the end of January and the ninth camera was put in place last week.
The city started mailing out citations Feb. 15 and so far, more than 3,500 citations have been issued, city officials said.
The citations, which carry $ 50 fines, are sent to the registered owners of vehicles caught on camera running red lights, along with pictures of the violations.
Of the $ 50 civil penalty, which is not a criminal fine, $ 35 goes to PEEK Traffic, which paid for, installed and maintains the cameras.
A traffic officer with the High Point Police Department reviews each citation before the citation is mailed out to make sure the citation was not issued in error.
Residents who object to the citation have 21 days to ask PEEK to schedule an appeal hearing.
Richard McCaslin and Linda Petrou, professors at High Point University, were selected by the city to handle the appeals of red light camera citations.
So far, about 40 people have appealed the citations, said Alice Smith, public information director for the city.
Robin Franzen, Beaverton Leads State In Camera Use, Portland Oregonian, 6/13/01 BRINGING A HALT TO RUNNING RED LIGHTS
As the first city in Oregon to use cameras to catch red–light runners, Beaverton is a testing ground for technology that soon could be snapping pictures in cities with populations of 30,000 or more throughout the state.
Given the complexity and expense of the equipment, being the leader is a feat. Yet it also means Beaverton has become the case study that others point to when either trying to sell the cameras to a broader audience or dramatically limit their use.
Critics debating the merits of red–light cameras in the Oregon Legislature this spring held up Beaverton as an example of what can go wrong, referring to a defective wire that caused one of the city’s cameras to snap a picture of every westbound motorist for 2–1/2 days. Portland, which plans to begin a program this summer using similar technology but a different vendor, politely tried to distance itself from the Beaverton mishap.
Then late last month, the negative publicity went national. Rep. Dick Armey, R–Texas, the House majority leader, insinuated in a headline–grabbing report that Beaverton’s program was part of a government scheme to increase red–light camera violations, and thereby revenue generated by tickets, by failing to give drivers enough time to safely stop at yellow lights.
Beaverton, which has phased in five intersections since the first camera’s debut in January, came out swinging, vigorously refuting the charge on television, on talk radio and in an unusually angry–sounding letter from Mayor Rob Drake to Armey.
Armey’s source, it turns out, was a KOIN (6) news report showing that an intersection with a red–light camera had a shorter yellow light –– almost a second shorter –– compared with several camera–free intersections a few blocks away. The damning conclusion Armey reached: "This jurisdiction has been caught red–handed playing with the signal timing on lights that have red–light cameras."
In response, Beaverton Chief of Staff Linda Adlard points out that the city has not altered the timing on any of the intersections that got cameras this year since 1996. Moreover, Beaverton’s formula for calculating the length of a yellow light –– dividing the posted speed limit by 10 to arrive at the approximate number of seconds of yellow –– falls generally in line with the recommendations of other jurisdictions and the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Adlard and experts agree.
So far, Beaverton is catching fewer scofflaws on camera than expected. Between Jan. 23 and May 22, the city issued 727 red–light camera citations, netting $100 on each $175 ticket. Expenses have so far slightly out–paced collected revenue, but that’s probably because many citations have yet to be paid, according to the city. In the long run, officials expect the program to "at least break even," Adlard said Monday, backing away from an earlier estimate that the city could collect about $2 million a year.
No tickets were issued while the sensor wire was malfunctioning in March. Last month, in an evaluation required by law, Beaverton told lawmakers its red–light camera pilot project had been successful, with more than 77 percent of city residents favoring photo red–light enforcement in a March survey. What the city needs now, according to the report, is authorization to use the cameras at more than four intersections, as proposed in pending legislation.
Robin Franzen, City Officials Defend Traffic Systems As Fair, Portland Oregonian, 6/13/01
BRINGING A HALT TO RUNNING RED LIGHTS First, House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas made a federal case of red–light cameras, saying they were nothing more than a government scam to generate revenue.
In his widely circulated May report, calling for congressional hearings on the technology, he even went so far as to suggest Beaverton shortened its yellow lights at intersections where cameras would be installed to make sure lots of people ran the red.
All for the money, of course. Then, earlier this month, San Diego’s red–light camera enforcement system suffered an embarrassing technological glitch, forcing the city to invalidate 5,000 tickets and turn off its cameras until an independent audit verifies the credibility of the system. Its vendor, notably, is the same company Portland has contracted with to provide red–light camera enforcement beginning, the city hopes, in August.
At a time when the Oregon Legislature is poised to give the green light to use cameras to any city of more 30,000 residents, can the negative publicity from California to the U.S. Congress get any worse?
City officials in Portland and Beaverton, the first Oregon city to use the equipment, have spent much of the past two weeks defending the costly but increasingly popular technology, which they have labored to bring online since the Oregon Legislature gave the go–ahead to a pilot project two years ago.
Beaverton flatly denies any yellow–light skullduggery, calling the accusation "ludicrous." Portland is carefully pushing ahead with its effort while trying to explain all the reasons why what happened in San Diego can’t happen here.
Both underscore their cases with a disturbing rationale for moving forward: More than 200,000 people are injured each year nationwide in red–light–running collisions, and more than 800 die, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"The problem is right out there in your face," said Capt. Mike Bell of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division, which administers Portland’s program. "And there are any number of studies that show that running a red light is a deliberate act by people who are frustrated or in a hurry."
Armey’s report, which has come under attack by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wants Americans to believe something different: that a government conspiracy has intentionally created a red–light crisis by gradually shortening yellow lights to the point drivers can’t stop safely in time and have to blow the red.
That’s big money for cities with cameras. A single camera in San Diego, for example, collected $6.8 million in revenue in 18 months, Armey’s report states.
Armey, who sees red–light cameras as a "Big Brother" issue, thinks the red–light–running epidemic could be more simply and cheaply solved by increasing the length of yellow lights, which he contends in the past 20 years have eroded from an average length of about five seconds to closer to three. City officials, and many experts, however, say more yellow alone isn’t a real solution.
"The length of a yellow signal is important," said Richard A. Retting, senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute. But giving a driver a half–second or a second more yellow isn’t going to change the dangerous trend, he said. "A fraction of a second doesn’t make that much difference. This is not about splitting hairs."
A recent study by the Insurance Institute showed red–light violations dropped 42 percent in Oxnard, Calif., after cameras were installed at nine intersections. Another study showed violations declined about 40 percent in Fairfax, Va., after one year with cameras.
However, Armey’s staff thinks those studies are flawed because the camera operator can control how many tickets are issued, potentially skewing results.
Meanwhile, reporters armed with stopwatches across the country failed to document the yellow–light pattern Armey describes, reporting on television and in newspapers that they found longer yellows at some intersections with cameras, and shorter ones at intersections without them –– not what you’d expect from reading Armey’s report.
In Beaverton, Chief of Staff Linda Adlard also points out that signal times at its camera intersections have not been adjusted since 1996, five years before Beaverton got its cameras. "The accusation that we’re rigging these things offends me and the mayor deeply," she said.
The San Diego crisis was caused when a contractor for Lockheed Martin IMS moved a sensor about 10 inches farther into the intersection without informing police, throwing off the ability to precisely calculate the driver’s speed based on time and distance traveled, said Mark Maddox, a company spokesman. "We try to create a margin of error (in favor of the driver), but the margin of error was lost."
Portland insists it has too many checks in place to produce such a mistake. Further, the city plans to install sensors before the intersection –– at the stop line –– which invalidates the need for math.
"In San Diego, when the first picture is taken, the driver is already in the intersection," said Patrick H. Nelson of the Traffic Division. "You have to do calculations to show where the car was when the light was red. Here, the (first) picture will be prior to entering the intersection, at the stop bar. We won’t need a calculation. We’ll have a picture of them in two places."
Portland, not surprisingly, also is eager for the public to understand that, unlike many communities, it doesn’t anticipate making money on red–light cameras. Quite the contrary, it expects to lose between $22,500 and $322,500 in its first year of operation, assuming about 25,000 tickets are issued annually and depending on how big a break judges give on tickets.
Because the city does not have a Municipal Court, it has to share ticket revenue with the state courts and Multnomah County.
MESSAGE TO Patrick Hasson dated 4/19/01: Dear Patrick Hasson at the Federal Highway Administration,
The message below is to my legislative representative here in Virginia, Jeannemarie Devolites. It includes a message to my Fairfax County representative, Cathy Hudgins, which in turn includes a message to VDOT Richmond engineers. I believe this is another example of what is wrong with this red light running and red light camera matter.
You’ll notice in the message that I refer to the intersection of US50 at Fillmore Street in Arlington, Virginia and the timings on the light. I believe there are statements on your STOP RED LIGHT RUNNING website http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/fourthlevel/pro_res_srlr_faq.htm that, while perhaps factually accurate, may be misleading nonetheless because of problems with the yellow time on the light. Under "Red Light Cameras Questions and Answers" there is an entry which says "How often do drivers run red lights?" and the entry goes on to give various rates every so many minutes for people approaching an intersection in Arlington, Virginia. I believe those statistics were for the US50 at Fillmore Street intersection in Arlington, a signal where the yellow time was increased after the study as per Arlington County officials. With important public policy being made across the country in part based on information from your website, I would ask that you check into this matter and make sure that any inaccurate or misleading information is either removed from your website or an annotated correction made. I do not believe that the good and decent people of Virginia are anywhere near as bad as they’ve been portrayed.
Thank you for your help in this important safety and public policy matter.
Gene Quinn Vienna, VA
––––– Original Message –––––
From: Gene Quinn
To: Jeannemarie Devolites
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2001 2:15 PM
Subject: Fw: RT7 at Towlston Road and others, Fairfax County
I sent the message below to Cathy Hudgins. I am disappointed as you probably will realize when you read the message, especially since I spent two hours of my own time last summer with Jeris White and his team reviewing for them all the factors about change interval timings. We spoke about RT7 and Towlston Road and some others but obviously with no effect as camera ops started there anyway with inadequate yellow time on the signal.
An individual such as myself should not have to be doing what government should be doing without anyone asking (and what engineers would do before the red light cameras came on the scene). Safety is being comprised at RT7 and Towlston Road. Why do I say this? The number of "citations" is always less than the number of "violations" and the number of "violations" is usually less than the number of actual "entries on red". Using the 4,000 citations cited in the newscast as an example, if the citation rate is 50% of "violations" recorded by the cameras, then the number of "violations" would be 8,000. Allowing an additional amount of a couple thousand because of the red "grace" period, would get the number of "entries on red" close to 10,000 or so during the 18 weeks. The point is that the number of citations is usually well below the actual "entry on red" amounts. These kinds of numbers are clearly dangerous and unacceptable, a conclusion validated by the finding of need for camera use in the first place.
Since the legislature granted authority to these jurisdictions to use these cameras with no safeguards against abuse and clearly no obligations to implement engineering countermeasures as the first step, members of the legislature ought to do what they can to make sure abuse does not take place or continue. Every single camera enforcement site ought to have an immediate and thorough engineering study, preferably by an independent registered professional engineer. All engineering countermeasures, including lengthening of the yellow, should be implemented. The report and all the countermeasures used should be documented and made public. Otherwise, camera enforcement should be terminated.
Please help to stop abuse of these cameras and use your good office to get this program underway.
Gene Quinn Vienna, VA
––––– Original Message –––––
From: Gene Quinn
To: Cathy M. (FF County) Hudgins
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2001 10:59 AM Subject: Fw: RT7 at Towlston Road and others, Fairfax County
RED LIGHT CAMERA ENFORCEMENT – FAIRFAX COUNTY
Dear Cathy Hudgins,
The message below to Mena Lockwood at VDOT is self explanatory. Mena is a transportation engineer at VDOT Richmond. Ilona Kastenhofer is the State Traffic Engineer. Without much success, I have been trying to get some corrections made to the signals for some time. My sense is that resistance to correcting the signals is coming from someplace here in northern Virginia but I do not know from where.
There are serious problems with this red light camera enforcement program whereby cameras are enforcing signals that turn red too quickly due to inadequate yellow time duration. Rt7 at Towlston Road is a good example. Inadequate yellow time on a traffic signal can be very dangerous!
It is shameful to be using machines to enforce signals that are timed so as to maximize the very outcome everyone knows is wrong and dangerous, "red light running". People who resist implementing proscribed engineering countermeasures want it both ways. On one hand they claim they are shocked about all the "red light running" they see but on the other they fail to act by taking simple and inexpensive steps to reduce it considerably. It seems that some people, despite what they say, want "red light running", or at least just enough to make the cameras "work", be "profitable" or satisfy some other agenda.
A Channel 4 newscast on 2/21/01 indicated 4,000 citations had been issued at RT7 and Towlston Rd. since camera enforcement began in early October, 2000. (4,000 in 18 weeks = 11,500 per year). One camera/one approach/one intersection. That’s a cool $575,000.00 per year figuring $50 per citation.
Red light cameras should not be used to enforce improperly timed signals. It is wrong.
Any help you can provide in getting this matter corrected would be appreciated by all of your constituents, including those who may have gotten citations when they shouldn’t have. I sure hope there have not been accidents because of this problem but my instincts tell me otherwise.
Gene Quinn Vienna, VA
––––– Original Message –––––
From: Gene Quinn
To: Mena (VDOT) Lockwood
Cc: Ilona (VDOT) Kastenhofer
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2001 9:22 AM
Subject: RT7 at Towlston Road and others, Fairfax County
Was the yellow time at RT7 and Towlston Road ever increased? If you read below, perhaps you’ll understand better some of my concerns.
Keep in mind the signal at US50 at Fillmore Street in Arlington (camera enforced) is one of the two studied by IIHS (Red Light Running and Sensible Countermeasures) when it had four seconds of yellow. The yellow was increased after the study to 4.50 seconds. Per the IIHS study, 78.5% of the entries on red happened during the first one second of red. I believe the IIHS study of this intersection is the source of the commonly heard statement about one red light runner every 12 minutes and every five minutes in peak hour, which is perhaps technically true but is misleading due inadequate yellow time on the light. I looked back in my readings at various FF County signals. The following are some of those readings, along with the conditions I noted:
US50WB at Chantilly Plaza – downhill 5.73% – Posted SL 45MPH – Measured Yellow 5.05 seconds – DATE 5/7/00 (Assume 5 seconds) RT28SB at Frying Pan Road – level – Posted SL 55MPH – Measured Yellow 5.55 seconds – DATE 5/7/00 (Assume 5.5 seconds) RT29EB at Village Dr. – downhill 5.73% – Posted SL 45MPH – Measured Yellow 4.06 seconds – DATE 5/7/00 (Assume 4 seconds) RT7EB at Towlston – level – Posted SL 55 MPH – Measured 4.07 seconds – DATE 1/27/01 (Assume 4 seconds)
The following questions might help you understand my concerns:
If RT28SB at Frying Pan Road has 5.5 seconds of yellow for level conditions and a posted speed limit of 55 MPH, why doesn’t RT7 at Towlston have 5.5 seconds of yellow for the same conditions?
Why is the camera enforcement happening at RT7 at Towlston (4 seconds of yellow) and not at RT28 at Frying Pan Road (5.5 seconds of yellow)?
If US50WB at Chantilly Plaza has 5 seconds of yellow for downhill and a posted speed limit of 45 MPH, why doesn’t US50 at Fillmore Street (in Arlington) have 5 seconds for essentially the same conditions?
If US50WB at Chantilly Plaza has 5 seconds of yellow for a downhill and a posted speed limit of 45 MPH, why doesn’t RT29EB at Village Dr. have 5 seconds for essentially the same conditions?
Why do US50WB at Chantilly Plaza, US50EB at Fillmore (Arlington), and RT29EB at Village Dr. all have different yellow times (5 seconds, 4.5 seconds, 4 seconds respectfully) for essentially the same conditions of posted speed limit and downhill conditions?
I took some measurements at Fairfax County Parkway SB at Pope’s Head Road on 5/14/00. Posted SL is 50 MPH. 85th percentile is probably 55–60 MPH. I measured downhill 2.6% grade. I measured 4.06 seconds of yellow (assume 4 seconds). There is a considerable amount of commercial vehicle and truck traffic. If there is still four seconds of yellow time on the signal, it is inadequate for the conditions noted, in which case a camera should not be installed or be operated.
Looking at the list of camera sites on the FF County webpage http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/comm/trans/redlight/cameras.html it seems like the cameras are being used where people are most likely to violate the red indication because of the signal timings.
Please help with these problems if and where you can. I am sending a cc to Ilona in the hopes she might be able and willing to help also.
It would seem reasonable that there should be a full scale documented engineering safety review at each intersection before any cameras are installed. Red light cameras should not be used to enforce signals with inadequate yellow time.
Thanks for any help you can lend. Please drop me a note and let me know what is being done, if anything, to address the issue.
Gene Quinn Vienna, VA
END MESSAGE TO Patrick Hasson of FHWA
Oregon Considers ’Red–Light Radar’ Street Corner Cameras Catch Drivers Who Run Lights PORTLAND, Posted 9:00 p.m. April 2, 1998 –– First it was photo radar, now cameras may be used to catch motorists running red lights.
Did you know that most accidents happen at intersections when someone runs a light? We’re in such a big hurry we don’t realize that a second or two to glance both ways before we cross the intersection may save someone’s life, KOIN 6 News reported.
That’s why there’s a push underway again, in Oregon, to start using red–light cameras.
They’re already being used in several places around the country.
Here’s how they work:
Cameras are mounted in boxes on posts at major problem intersections. Sensors are installed in the pavement. When someone runs a red light, a picture is taken. It shows the car, driver, license plate and intersection. Caught on video, the motorist is issued a citation. Portland and Beaverton have been using photo radar for a couple of years and both cities say it’s made a big difference. Like photo radar, the legislature must approve the use of red–light cameras.
Beaverton’s Linda Adlard will be at the next session leading the charge.
"We have numerous drivers running red lights all the time here," Adlard told KOIN. "That is just a scenario which is asking for people to be killed. It’s difficult to use police officers in that case because of course a police officer chasing you through that red light is also dangerous."
Statistics show the people who run red lights are usually younger, more likely do not wear seatbelts and are far more likely to have multiple speeding convictions.
If the legislature passes red–light cameras in the next session, the earliest we’d probably see them on the streets is in the fall of 1999, the station reported.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, April 30, 1998
Contact: Jim Pinkleman
Phone: 202–366–0660 FHWA 16–98
SECRETARY SLATER ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP TO COMBAT RED LIGHT RUNNING NATIONWIDE
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced the start of the second phase of a public education campaign, in partnership with Chrysler Corporation and the American Trauma Society (ATS), to prevent drivers from running red lights, one of the most dangerous acts of aggressive driving.
"Safety is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority, and now we have two additional partners to champion safety," Secretary Slater said. "Our partnership in educating drivers about the hazards of running red lights will prevent injuries and save lives."
Secretary Slater was joined by Chrysler Corporation CEO Robert J. Eaton and American Trauma Society Executive Director Harry Teter in making the announcement. As a result of this three–way partnership, almost 200 trauma centers throughout the country will start local red light running safety outreach campaigns.
Red light running is a major traffic problem in urban areas, and more than 8,100 people died in 1996 in intersection crashes, according to the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Chrysler has had a corporate culture of safety for many years," Eaton said. "Just as the Department of Transportation is dedicated to making the safest roadway network in the world, Chrysler is committed to designing, manufacturing and marketing safe vehicles. The campaign against red light running addresses the third component of traffic safety, the driver. We encourage communities all over the country to get involved and to educate drivers that red light running is a leading cause of accidents and must be dealt with by significant law enforcement actions." He noted that this campaign provides a critical safety message to drivers of all ages.
ATS selected the red light running program as its featured campaign for 1998. "Our members know firsthand about the consequences of red light running. They provide medical care for victims of these crashes on a daily basis," Teter said. "It’s also fitting for us to join in this campaign because National Trauma Awareness Month begins tomorrow."
The American Trauma Society, based in Washington, D.C., has 180 hospital members and 26 state division chapters across the country that will be implementing the red light running campaign. Each participating trauma hospital will have a dedicated campaign coordinator to work with local law enforcement, engineering and safety professionals to promote red light running campaign safety messages.
Chrysler operates 39 manufacturing centers and has more than 4,000 dealerships across North America, as well as an employee network of 120,000. The company pioneered numerous safety innovations including air bag restraint systems and integrated child safety seats.
Chrysler has initiated a number of national safety campaigns of its own, including The Back is Where It’s At, which emphasizes that the back seat is the safest place for children to ride in a motor vehicle; Neon Drunk Driving Simulator, an interactive program which allows participants to experience firsthand the dangers of drunken driving without endangering lives, and Do the Buckle, a nationwide consumer initiative designed to communicate the importance of wearing seat belts.
Secretary Slater in August 1995 announced the beginning of the campaign against red light running. Speaking near an intersection known for its high incidence of red light running, then–FHWA Administrator Slater awarded grants to 31 communities to implement local campaigns. The success of that national effort led to the partnership announced today.
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