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Photo Enforcement - Historical Perspective

Red Light Systems

In 2005 the Washington State Legislature passed a Senate House Bill that allowed the use of automated camera systems to detect certain traffic violations: red light, speeding in school zones, and violations at railroad crossings.  In 2007 the Renton City Council passed an ordinance adopting the standards and restrictions regarding use of the traffic safety cameras outlined in RCW 46.63.030. A new section 10-12-15 Traffic Safety Cameras was passed and added to the city’s general ordinances. 

In September 2007 the City of Renton entered into an agreement with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to provide automated camera services for the city.  This contract is valid for 5 years.  ATS worked with the City of Renton Transportation Division, Renton Municipal Court and the Renton Police to install automated red light cameras at four intersections and fixed speed systems in school zones at three schools. 

High collision intersections were selected and studied to determine the potential impact and effectiveness of the camera system.  The contractor collected data at these high collision and complaint intersections using the Axsis Violation Incident Monitoring System Site Data Report (VIMS).  

High crash collision reports are provided by Renton’s Transportation Department and provide valuable collision information to include those occurring at intersections.  Intersection collision data from 2002 through 2007 show the following rankings for intersections where proposed photo enforcement camera systems were to be installed: 

Ranking by Number of Collisions:

  #1 – Sunset Blvd North at North 3rd Street, 170 collisions
  #2 – Grady Way at Rainier Avenue South, 168 collisions
  #4 – 43rd Street at East Valley Road, 98 collisions
#10 – Bronson Way North at Sunset Blvd North – 78 collisions

*Ranking by Total Costs:

  #1- Grady Way at Rainier Avenue South - $5,325,000
  #3 – Sunset Blvd North at N. 3rd Street - $4,510,000
  #6 – 43rd Street at East Valley Road - $3,579,000
#16 – Bronson Way North at Sunset Blvd North - $1,974,000 

* Cost calculations: Fatality Crash $1,200,000.00, Injury Crash $75,000, Property Damage Only $7,000.  Figure calculations are provided by Washington State Crash Data and Analysis Office. 

ATS began design and install work on red light systems at the above four intersections, one approach per intersection. In May of 2008 these red light systems became operational beginning a 30-day warning period. During that 30-day period we authorized 757 warning notices at these four locations. Approximately 45 days later two additional approaches were added at the Grady Way and Rainier Avenue South location covering violations that were occurring both southbound and eastbound. 

The graph below shows the number of red light violations issued per month since the program's inception.  The initial increase noted at the onset was in part due to the addition of the two additional approaches at Grady Way and Rainier Ave South.  It is encouraging to note that the number of red light violations has decreased approximately 50 percent over the previous five months.  The only changed variable in this setting is driver input.  Drivers are making a choice to voluntarily comply with the traffic signals. 

Graph 2

This graph represents the number of red light tickets issued at each approach since the inception of the program.

Graph 3

Since the program is in its infancy we will not be able to determine the effectiveness of the impact of the red light cameras in relationship to reducing intersection collisions until we are able to collect additional data.  2008 collision data for these intersections is available for these intersections but it is too early to determine if there is a correlation between the camera systems and collision data.