Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sign Here, Please

Photo Red is in the news again (Spokesman Review), but this time it's about a technicality.

The system requires that a police officer review images from the cameras, then decide whether an infraction has occurred. If so, the officer punches an “accept” button, sending an electronic signal to Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions. That company then affixes the officer’s signature to the ticket before mailing it to the driver.

Clark, and later Chuang, argued that state law requires that any signature signed under penalty of perjury must be written in Washington.

It's a legal technicality I'm sure the city will find a way to overcome. Why? Because the program, touted as a safety program since its beginning 2-1/2 years ago, has proven its worth as a revenue generator which Mayor Verner proposes using to hire more police officers.

Photo red has been a peeve of mine because of the dubious claims of being a safety program. I've written about the program here, here, here, here, here, here and a couple more times that I left out. (I told you it was a peeve.)

Here's a reminder of what was said in January 2010.

While it may be too early to judge the effectiveness of the cameras in Spokane, they have succeeded in catching violators and raising revenue.

Spokane issued 5,690 camera tickets that resulted in revenue of $419,000, [Officer Teresa] Fuller said. After the contracted camera company, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions, is paid and other expenses subtracted, police estimate a profit of $103,000.

I'd like to see the numbers of tickets issues each month. Are they on the decline at each intersection because the system is acting as a deterrent? How about the number and types of accidents attributed to red light running at each intersection? The program is 2-1/2 years old so there should be plenty of numbers by now.

I'd also like to see a categorization of the types of violations. When you think red light runner you probably imagine someone blasting through the red light. But if that were the case with these thousands of violations, it seems there would be a lot more accidents--unless Spokane has lots and lots of really lucky people. How many of these violations are of the "letter of the law" type such as stopping over or just past the stop line instead of in front of it and how many are blatant red light runners?

In the meantime, I offer this suggestion for solving the problem of affixing the signature to the tickets here in Washington. An autopen. The could pay for it with the money they make from the Photo Red program. And it would be a wise investment especially since they plan to expand the program to other revenue generating intersections.

An idea that's pure gold--as it was intended in the first place.


EvilElf said...

I want to ask them if they have been also using photo red to issue tickets for texting or talking on cellphones while cruising through red lights.

I don't think that making it illegal for texting/talking has had any effect on whether people do it or not. This would be a great deterrent and an awesome revenue generator.


Anonymous said...

I imagine most red light runners are of the kind that are pushing hard and enter just after the yellow light (entering the intersection <1 second after the change to red). In this scenario the red light runner is through the intersection at full speed (and likely 5-10 mph over) before the cross traffic can accelerate. I doubt there are many people running lights 2-3+ seconds after the change to's too risky.

I am curious about the folks who stop just beyond the stop line, barely into the intersection, and whether they are triggering a red light ticket or not. The red light camera company must have a method to weed these drivers out, otherwise municipalities would be overrun with non-law breakers challenging tickets in the courts.