Following a successful one-year pilot, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced today the city will install an additional 24 red light cameras at 19 intersections during 2008, bringing the total to 30 red light cameras in use at 22 intersections citywide.
"There is no excuse for running a red light," Nickels said. "An instant of recklessness or neglect can take a life or cause serious injury. Expanding this successful program will make our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers."
Using sensors at these intersections, the digital cameras photograph the license plates of cars running a red light. A Seattle police officer reviews each violation and, if approved, a $101 citation is mailed to the vehicle's registered owner. The stepped-up enforcement encourages drivers to be more careful when passing through the intersections. Starting in 2008, the fine increases to $124, equal to those for red light violations detected by police officers. The Seattle Police Department and the city's Department of Transportation selected the 19 intersections based on traffic safety.
"Red light cameras are showing themselves to be an important tool to reduce injury accidents at dangerous intersections and enhance pedestrian safety at the same time," said Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.
In a report released today, staff evaluating the one-year pilot program found red light cameras at four high-traffic intersections appeared to be making streets safer for pedestrians and drivers. The study found the frequency of red light running generally dropped by 50 percent at the intersections where cameras have been installed. The number of injury accidents and the number of people injured also declined.
The city conducted the pilot to test the effectiveness of a technology that has been shown to reduce deadly "T-Bone" side-impact collisions in more than 100 cities worldwide. The technology also makes it safer for pedestrians to cross these busy streets.
The budget for the one-year project was $460,000. The city was billed approximately $3,500 per month for the services provided by each camera and this cost was covered by the $101 fines levied against each red light violation.
The program issued 16,539 citations during the pilot, resulting in about $1.1 million in monetary penalties. While the red light cameras appear to be paying for themselves, public safety is the primary reason for the program.
A study by the Federal Highway Administration showed red light cameras had a significant effect in reducing dangerous accidents. Vehicles running red lights typically increase speed and can cause high-speed, side-door collisions resulting in serious injury and death.