News 5 Investigates

Apr 10, 2013 1:34 AM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Effectiveness of red light cameras in Pueblo

If you've barreled through a red light in Pueblo, you may have received a red light camera ticket in the mail.

For years, the City of Pueblo has argued the cameras help curb bad driving habits and reduce accidents.

So just how effective is the program?

"The vast majority of the persons who receive a red light ticket don't reoffend," Sgt. Chris Noeller with the Pueblo Police Department said. "They're less likely to run the red lights at least at that intersection a second time."

In 2009, cameras were installed at two of Pueblo's most dangerous intersections.

Those intersections are:
Highway 50 and Norwood
Thatcher and Prarie

"At Highway 50 and Norwood, we've seen a reduction in accidents," traffic engineer Pepper Whitleff said. "We started a 3-year analysis prior to the camera installation and had 54 accidents. A 3-year analysis after the installation shows we've only had 34 so we've seen a good reduction in accidents at that particular location."

At Thatcher and Prarie, questionable results surfaced. Before the program launched, there were 26 accidents. Since the cameras were installed, there have been 35.

"You have to take a look at the specific (types) of accidents occurring there," Whitleff said. "Keep in mind we only monitor one direction at that intersection and there are four approaches to the intersection. The problem that we're seeing is accidents with the westbound to southbound left turn and we're looking at ways to reduce the number of accidents occurring there."

   Whitleff is adamant those accidents do not reflect the performance of the red light camera system and says more research needs to be done to improve safety at that particular location.

About 10,000 violations have been issued between 2009 and March 2012.

According to records obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act, the City of Pueblo is still waiting to collect 1,170 fines from violators as of March 6, 2013.

1,170 fines at $75 a ticket leaves the city with nearly $90,000 in unpaid fines.

"Due to the nature of the way the program is set up, there are certain criteria within the state law on what we can and can't do in regards to how the fines are collected," Sgt. Noeller said.
The Pueblo Police Department says although an actual officer isn't writing the ticket, red light fines should be treated just as important as an officer-issued citation.

Sgt. Noeller adds officers go through each red light camera case before mailing out fines.

Just like a traffic citation, if you believe you received a ticket in error, you can arrange a date to have your case heard in municipal court.

Although you can't have your car booted or towed for a red light violation, the City could submit a summons for you to appear in court or eventually turn your fine over to a collections agency.

There are talks of expanding the program but no definite plans to do so are on the table just yet.

The City's traffic engineering department is currently assessing high risk intersections to determine if and when new cameras may be warranted.

The final decision to expand the program will come from city council.



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