This weeks Inlander has an article about Spokane's photo red traffic enforcement that presents information about the traffic safety issues. Prior reports from other news sources mentioned safety in passing and focused more on the money.
[Spokane Police Ofc. Teresa] Fuller says five years of accident data — February 2003 to February 2008 — was reviewed for all 251 of the city’s signaled intersections. Cameras were installed at intersections that had high traffic as well as being in the top 20 for accidents.
That five years of data will be used to evaluate Photo Red. The baseline for Mission and Hamilton is 23 T-bones out of 79 total collisions; for Browne and Sprague it’s 43/78; for Division and Francis it’s 7/60. (The totals here are low because the county had jurisdiction on half the intersection prior to recent annexation, Fuller says.) Division and Sprague, where cameras are soon to be installed, shows 58 T-bones and 105 total collisions.
While I appreciate seeing figures, there's still something missing. What is the criteria for determining that photo red is working? If we look at the number of T-bone accidents versus the number of accidents, excluding Division and Francis, we have a range of 29-55 percent of the accidents being T-bones. That in itself tells us nothing.
And this is over a five-year period so at Mission and Hamilton we're talking about an average of one T-bone type collision every three months. At Browne and Sprague there's one every month and a half and at Division and Sprague it's almost one a month. How many vehicles travel through those intersections per accident? How many injuries were there? If we want to reduce the number and/or types of collisions and/or injuries, what is the goal?
It's also as if there's no other option. Can we reduce accidents by increasing the length of the yellow light by a second or two? How about delaying the green light so all traffic has a red light for a second or two?
As Mayor Mary Verner’s administration and the City Council review the first year of Photo Red, will they see a reduction in T-bones and other accidents? Will the program continue if the primary result seems to be catching rolling right turns on red?