Despite a vote of 4 to 3 to extend the city’s red light camera program, the vote failed because it required five to pass. Councilors Bonner Gaylord, Eugene Weeks and John Odom voted against extending the program.
The SafeLight program allows the city to place cameras at high-accident intersections. Drivers who run red lights are caught on camera and issued a ticket through the mail.
Gaylord questioned the ethics of the program, which he said “goes against what our country’s justice system was founded on — innocent until proven guilty. And this seems to be to be guilty until proven innocent.” Since the ticket is issued to the owner of the car, he said there is no way to prove that the owner was actually driving.
Transportation Operations Manager Mike Kennon said that the ticket works like a parking ticket in that it is a civil ticket that does not result in insurance hikes or points on a person’s license. The state law allows owners to transfer the ticket to the driver of the car.
Weeks said that when the program started three years ago, there was a camera at the intersection of Rock Quarry Road and Proctor Street, which has since been removed. He said when he questioned the city about the removal, he was told that it was because there was a decrease in accidents at that intersection.
“I thought that was part of the objective of the red light camera was to cut down accidents at intersections,” he said.
Kennon said that it is common to evaluate the intersections and move the cameras around to the high-priority areas. In the case of Rock Quarry and Proctor, Kennon said that with the installation of the camera, t-bone-type crashes that had been occurring dropped down to none. He said the department can look into the intersection again if crashes have increased.
“There is some cost associated with it,” said City Manager Russell Allen. “We do want to put it at intersections that are productive.”