Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Red light cameras, radar pull in $1.9M in fines

The red light camera at Wilmot Road and 22nd Ave .

The red light camera at Wilmot Road and 22nd Ave .

It’s hard to say why – maybe it’s the humiliation of seeing your face on an official, disciplinary document or perhaps it’s the financial hit you take as a result – but Tucsonans seem to be responding to photo traffic enforcement.

The number of citations issued each month due to radar van snapshots is decreasing, average speeds are lower around certain intersections and the number of people injured or killed in traffic accidents has fallen since last year, according to Tucson police Lt. Mike Pryor.

Pryor is slated to present the statistics to the City Council at its meeting Tuesday.

It’s been just more than a year since the city started the program to confront residents with their photo in addition to a fine for a traffic violation.

The city’s contractor, Mesa-based American Traffic Solutions, deployed a radar van in August 2007, and the first of four red-light cameras was installed in November 2007.

By April this year, cameras had been installed at the intersections of Grant and Tanque Verde roads, 22nd Street and Wilmot Road, Nogales Highway and Valencia Road, and Oracle and River roads.

Between last Novemberand August, Tucson assessed $864,378 in fines on 18,268 people running red lights and getting caught on camera. Another 3,191 people received citations in September.

The penalty for running a red light is $280. Speeding fines range from $151 for going less than 10 mph over the limit to $366 for going more than 30 mph over, according to the rate schedule.

As of Sept. 12, Tucson had pulled in about $1.9 million through radar and red light camera traffic enforcement, Pryor’s data prepared for the council shows.

Of that amount, $862,000 was paid to the Arizona Supreme Court, $513,000 went to American Traffic Solutions, about $480,000 paid for police and court workers and $10,000 was spent on traffic engineering.

As of Sept. 12, the city had about $46,000 more than it would have without the photo enforcement program. That number changes as citations are adjudicated, Pryor said.

But the worth of the program, Pryor says, cannot be measured only in dollars and cents, even if dollars do help fix budget shortfalls, with Tucson’s standing at about $67 million.

“The ultimate goal of the red-light program is zero tickets and zero crashes,” Pryor said Monday.

The idea is to reduce the speed at which drivers pass through the intersection, which should reduce the injuries sustained in accidents, especially the most dangerous kind – side-impact crashes.

At the intersections that now have cameras, accident-related injuries dropped between 4 percent and 66 percent over the period since the lights were installed compared to the same period the year before, Pryor’s figures show.

The program’s apparent success has the lieutenant looking to the future: Mid-block speed cameras, cameras at school crosswalks and four additional red-light camera intersections are under consideration.

Tucson also has been chosen to participate in a federally funded study of ways to integrate photo traffic enforcement and traditional methods, he said.

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