Chatham County Losing Ineffective Red Light Cameras
Soon to be gone, the red light cameras at King George Blvd.
Soon to be gone, the red light cameras at King George Blvd.

Ever been caught on camera running a red light? Chances are it wasn't at Highway 204 and King George Boulevard in Georgetown. The county has been skeptical from the beginning that the cameras are catching all the red light runners.

This is an expensive system and officials say, with the number of people they believe run the light every day, the cameras should be paying for themselves.

Fifty thousand motorist pass through that intersection on any given day. "Oh it's a rough intersection," said Charlotte Kia. "I've only lived here for three months. This is the worst intersection."

Many say they see cars run the lights there all the time. "I notice that people don't really care," said Chris Cowart. "They fly through there like maniacs."

Five months ago, Chatham County signed a contract with Nestor Traffic Systems to install red light cameras. Each violator caught by the camera gets a $70 citation. But the cameras are only catching an average of two violators a day.

At a cost of $7,300 a month to lease the cameras, the county says it's not worth it. "It came down to, yes it serves a public safety function, but the systems should pay for themselves, and this system is not paying for itself," said assistant city manager Pat Monahan.

In fact, the county is losing about $3,000 a month. That's a far cry from what the red light cameras inside the Savannah city limits are doing. The cameras along Abercorn at DeRenne, Mall Boulevard and White Bluff are generating $60,000 a month.

"The City of Savannah has three of these, they plan to install two more, same stretch of road along Abercorn," said Monahan. "Same number of average daily traffic, but those are doing both. They are deterring and paying for themselves."

The county says it would be cheaper and more effective to pay two police officers to monitor that intersection. But they haven't completely given up on the idea of red light cameras. "I'm still not convinced that the right type of system won't work," said Monahan. "But at this point we know this system will not work."

Nestor has 30 days from tomorrow to remove the cameras. The county does plan to have officers out there catching anyone who runs the light.

They city isn't saying just yet where its additional cameras will go. We'll know in a few weeks.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com