Mayor Ben Cantu and his council colleagues aren’t imagining things when it comes to red light running being out of control in Manteca.
In a 10-year period ending this month Manteca Police indicated there have been:
*165 intersection collisions that were the direct result of motorists running red lights.
*125 injury accidents as the result of a driver running a red light.
*one person killed due to a red light runner.
*814 tickets issued including 11 for turning right on a red light without stopping and 35 for running a red left turn arrow.
*The worst intersections in descending order are North Union and West Louise Avenue (10 collisions), North Main Street at Alameda Street (10 collisions), North Airport Way and Lathrop Road (6 collisions including one fatality), East Yosemite and Vasconcellos Avenue (four collisions) and Yosemite Avenue at the southbound Highway 99 on ramp (four collisions).
That is part of a presentation the City Council will receive when they meet at 7 o’clock tonight at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. The council requested the information due to growing concerns they have with traffic safety in Manteca. They could direct staff tonight whether they want to move forward with red light cameras.
Installing red light cameras isn’t an inexpensive proposition. If all four legs of an intersection are covered the cost can come in at around $250,000 with the biggest cost being up to a $54,000 charge per camera. There is also a $5,000 monthly maintenance fee. When coupled with the minimum contract of 36 months, one intersection would carry a $430,000 or so price tag over a span of three years.
The systems can also be leased for $4,652.50 a month per camera. Based on four cameras on an intersection leasing would cost $657,000 over three years.
A red-light running violation occurs when a motorist enters an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red. Those in the intersection — partially or entirely — when the signal changes red are not red-light violators.
The rationale behind deploying red light camera enforcement systems are as follows:
*Cameras increase the odds violators will be caught.
*Well-publicized red light camera programs discourage would-be violators from gambling that they won’t get caught due to the nearly $500 ticket.
*Tickets aren’t written to generate revenue. Of that $500 ticket just $100 is the actual fine of which the local jurisdiction receives $17. The rest — and other add on fees — goes to the state. Last year the city’s share of traffic ticket revenue was around $150,000 or enough to cover the cost of just one traffic enforcement officer.
*The tickets the system issues are designed to change driver behavior and make streets safer.
*Automated enforcement deters red light running as it is 24/7 unlike targeted traffic enforcement that is spotty at best given Manteca has five dedicated traffic unit officers to cover the city that only work four 10-hour shifts a week.
For a ticket to be issued a series of steps must be taken.
*The red light camera company reviews the information collected and forwards the information to the police department.
*A police officer reviews the data that California requires must show the vehicle entered the intersection after the light turned red along with photos with a clear view of both the vehicle license plate and driver’s face. Once legal thresholds are met a ticket is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle caught on film.
Among the pros listed in the staff report prepared by staff for the City Council:
*Pedestrian fatalities have decreased at the majority of intersections with red light cameras.
*Traffic violations have been shown to drop significantly in areas where red light enforcement cameras are used.
*The frequency of accidents — especially T-bone collisions — may be reduced at intersections with red light cameras.
*They are more efficient than actual enforcement by traffic officers who can’t be everywhere all the time.
Among the cons listed:
*The driver of the vehicle at the time of the offense cannot be verified, just the registered owner. The ticket can be challenged and dismissed if the registered owner’s face doesn’t match the photo.
*80 percent of the tickets don’t go to drivers running through the intersection but rather to those making right turns. The staff report states that “is hardly a burning safety issue” which is true for vehicles but not pedestrians trying to cross on a green when a car is making a right turn on a red light.
*Vehicles without front license plates.
*The use of spray and license plate covers — illegal in California — that reflects flash back into the camera and makes plates unreadable.
Another point the staff makes is that a traffic officer needs to compare a photo of the driver with DMV photos, complete a citation, and mail it to the registered owner. The staff report considers this a “con” as it “takes away from traffic enforcement time” while apparently assuming an increase in red light enforcement by red light cameras doesn’t count as enforcement per se.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org