Wrecks down in red-light-cam areas

8 city intersections see major drop in crashes since program's start
2013-01-02T00:00:00Z 2013-01-02T14:25:14Z Wrecks down in red-light-cam areasVeronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Collisions at intersections monitored by red-light cameras have steadily dropped over the years with the lowest numbers reported in fiscal year 2012.

The Traffic Safety Camera Program, enforced by the Tucson Police Department, started with one camera at one intersection in January 2007. Now the program snaps speeders and red-light runners at eight intersections throughout the city.

The year the first camera was in service, nearly 200 collisions were reported at the eight locations, deemed to be the most troublesome based on the number and type of crashes, violations and injuries at each intersection. With all eight cameras operating in fiscal year 2012, a total of 74 crashes were reported, according to the program's latest report.

Crash statistics for the first half of fiscal year 2013 were not yet available.

At their peaks, and before the cameras were operational, most of the intersections had more than 20 and up to 36 collisions, the report shows. In fiscal year 2012, each intersection had 12 or fewer collisions. The number was in the single digits at two intersections.

"In our books, as far as the Police Department is concerned, the program has been a great success, and we certainly want to continue with it," said Lt. Elise Souter with TPD'S Traffic Enforcement Division, which oversees the camera program.

Souter said she believes the drop can be attributed to an increased awareness of the cameras, which has caused drivers to be more cautious when they approach intersections.

Collisions tend to be the most serious at intersections because most of the crashes are either head-on or side impacts, Souter said.

"Anytime that we can reduce intersection collisions and we can make a difference on those two types of collisions, you're gonna save lives no matter how you look at it," she said.

Despite the drop in collisions, in fiscal year 2012 nearly 28,000 citations were issued for red-light violations caught by the cameras, which is consistent with the previous year, according to the report.

More than 90 percent of drivers cited were first-time offenders.

"Once they've gotten a citation, they are not eager to get another one," Souter said. "Our recidivism rate is very low, and that's been very helpful."

Nearly 40 percent of red-light and speed violators caught by the camera opt to take defensive-driving courses.

Bill Pachnowski, a lead defensive driving instructor for the National Traffic Safety Institute, has been teaching classes for 11 years and said he's seen a decrease in the red-light violators in his courses over the years.

"We were having, probably at least 50 percent of our classes were red-light runners," he said. "Now it's a handful. It's dwindled almost to nothing."

He said he believes the decrease is due to an increase in driver education. Several new traffic schools have sprouted in recent years.

In his classes, Pachnowski teaches students to be aware of where the intersection begins and to monitor pedestrian crosswalk signals to determine if they have enough time to clear an intersection.

A YouTube video captures accidents and near-accidents involving motorists running red lights at Arizona intersections: starnet.com/video

red-light-cam intersections

Grant and Tanque Verde roads

Nogales Highway and Valencia Road

22nd Street and Wilmot Road

River and Oracle roads

Speedway and Kolb Road

Grant and Swan roads

Broadway and Craycroft Road

Sixth Avenue and Ajo Way

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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