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Red light for cameras
System to catch red light runners on hold
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The wobbling economy managed to do what critics couldn’t – stop red light cameras from being installed at Manteca intersections.

Police Chief Dave Bricker indicated the effort to install the cameras at six intersections has been stalled due to the firm that provides the only system that Manteca wants deployed – one that has an accident avoidance component – is going through shaky financial times.

“We want to make sure that the firm that we have is on firm financial ground before proceeding,” said Bricker.

The Manteca City Council decided to go forward with the system after a survey during a 16-hour period in May 2008 came up with 552 red light violations at six intersections. The Manteca Police Department has four officers assigned to traffic who work 40 hours apiece each week. Even if they were all working the same eight hour period in the right place at the right time non-stop for their shift and took a fairly quick 15 minutes to pull over a violator, ticket them and get back on the road they could only issue 128 tickets a day at only one-eighth of all of Manteca’s intersections. They’d also have to ignore all other traffic concerns such as speeding and stop sign running as well as not being distracted by any accidents or other calls.

The camera deal was designed to reduce the odds of red light runners getting away with breaking the law — as well as increasing safety at six intersections — by approving a deal with Nestor Traffic Systems to install red light cameras.

The six intersections targeted for red light cameras are:

• Main Street and Yosemite Avenue.

• Union Road and Northgate Drive.

• Main Street and Center Street.

• Main Street and Louise Avenue.

• Lathrop Road and Union Road.

• Louise Avenue and Union Road.

As fashioned, the deal with Nestor won’t cost Manteca anything unless they break the contract before three years are up.

Bricker had been opposed to red light camera systems as he viewed them as simply being punishment orientated. He favored going with Nestor as it is the only system that once it spots a red light runner it holds the green for cross traffic to reduce the potential for intersection T-bone accidents which rank on top of the list for in-city traffic fatalities and major injuries.

Typically in cities where such systems are in place, red light running incidents drop off.

A trained traffic officer with Manteca Police would review all red light photos taken by Nestor and determine if they meet criteria for a ticket before they are forwarded to the registered driver of the vehicle. The faces of drivers show up extremely clear in photos allowing the officer to compare them with the DMV database.

Contracts with firms such as Nestor guarantee the cities they work with that during the contract the worst that can happen is the city is assured of a revenue-neutral financial position. In other words, if enough tickets aren’t issued to raise revenue that meets the flat charge each month, the city isn’t responsible for the difference. The city is prohibited by law from assuring a red light violation company of a set percentage of each ticket.

The violation for red light running carries a maximum fine of $371 of which Manteca gets just $17. If the judge imposes just half the fine, the city gets nothing.