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Officials tout red-light cameras

Contract for traffic cameras is up in April, but there are those who think there is a large benefit

Posted: February 15, 2014 10:35 p.m.
Updated: February 15, 2014 10:35 p.m.
 

With Santa Clarita’s current contract for red light cameras up for review this year, city officials say the program has had a marked effect on roadway safety.

Santa Clarita’s red light cameras have been in place since 2004, and in that time the city has seen a decline in traffic collisions at monitored intersections, according to data compiled by the city.

“For us this is a tool in the toolbox to help improve traffic safety,” said city spokeswoman Gail Morgan.

There are cameras set up at seven intersections throughout Santa Clarita — Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway, McBean Parkway and Magic Mountain Parkway, McBean Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road, Newhall Ranch Road and Bouquet Canyon Road, Bouquet Canyon Road and Seco Canyon Road, Whites Canyon Road and Soledad Canyon Road, and Lyons Avenue and Orchard Village Road.

Andrew Yi, city traffic engineer, said the number of certain types of collisions at monitored intersections has fallen notably since the cameras were installed — namely the broadside collisions that he said are oftentimes the most dangerous.

“Those are the high-impact collisions that cause serious injuries or, a lot of times, are fatal,” Yi said.

Traffic officials studied the number of such collisions before and after the cameras were installed and found the average number of yearly broadside collisions decreased 61 percent at intersections with red-light cameras.

The average number of yearly injury collisions dropped about 8 percent, while total yearly collisions dropped roughly 18 percent at those intersections, Yi said.

Rear-end collisions at those intersections did show a 12-percent increase from before the cameras were installed to after, Yi said.

Despite the city-cited safety benefits, the cameras are not without controversy.

Valencia resident Jim Farley said at a recent City Council meeting he doesn’t think the city’s yellow left-turn arrows are long enough to always make it completely through intersections, meaning some people could get undeserved tickets.

“The tickets and fines are going to the folks that are not causing the traffic accidents,” he said.

Some have also bemoaned the high cost of tickets, which run nearly $500 a pop.

Mark Hunter, an administrative analyst with the city’s Traffic Division, said the number of red light camera tickets issued fell during the second year of the program and has remained relatively stable since then.

“On average we give out about 6,600 violations a year,” Hunter said.

That averages out to about 18 violations per day.

The city of Santa Clarita receives about 30 percent of the revenue from each ticket, adding up to an average of $667,000 a year.

Average annual expenditures for the program are roughly $569,000, according to figures from the city.

Any revenues exceeding the cost of the program are put toward programs and projects geared at traffic safety, according to Morgan.

The company contracted to provide the city’s red light cameras is Redflex Traffic Systems, which runs similar red light camera programs nationally.

Redflex has come under fire in recent months after a fired executive claimed the company bribed and provided gifts to officials to secure contracts, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Redflex also lost its contract with the city of Chicago amid allegations of bribery.

Morgan said Redflex has worked well in the city of Santa Clarita.

“When all of this was coming out they came and met with us personally to explain that whatever was going on in other municipalities was not going on here,” Morgan said. “And we’ve been pleased with our relationship.”


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