Traffic cameras to make state debut
By Chris Stevens
Thursday, September 14, 2006
SAUGUS - Town Manager Andrew Bisignani has awarded a contract to install traffic cameras to RedFlex Traffic Systems Inc., making Saugus the first community in the state to move forward with the technology.
Lynn, Lawrence and Swampscott are also investigating the possibility of using cameras at dangerous intersections to snagged speeders and red light runners. However with the bid awarded Saugus will likely be the first community to have the program up and running.
The way the cameras work a motor vehicle operator who runs a red light is mailed a violation that includes a still image of the violation. The violation will result in a fine, which will likely be treated like a parking ticket and won't affect the drivers insurance rates.
Bisignani said a program for chronic speeders is also under consideration.
"This is first and foremost about improved public safety," he said. "All the statistics show that communities using this technology see a significant reduction in accidents."
Bisignani said the town doesn't have the resources to provide the necessary traffic control enforcement, which Lt. Stephen Sweezey agreed.
The police department has been lobbying for the cameras arguing that due to budget constraints traditional traffic enforcement has been a challenge and the camera would be a huge support.
Sweezey said 80-percent of the calls the department receives are about parking and speeders and people's general disregard for the rules of the road.
When the question of installing the cameras was first raised in June, Sweezey said the department had written 616 tickets in the last 18 months and tended to 1,400 accidents and he didn't expect behaviors would change.
Statistics, provided by RedFlex, show that installing the cameras does cut the number of red light runners and speeders at the affected intersections by 53-percent before leveling out.
Not every violator is destined to receive a ticket however. Bisignani pointed out that the Police Department would be solely responsible for determining whether a citation would be issued.
"If the answer is yes," he added. "The citation is generated and mailed out by RedFlex."
Bisignani said he understands there are people that believe the technology is invasive but added traffic camera's should be the least of their worries. He estimates that between ATM machines, toll booth travel, video surveillance cameras at gas stations, grocery stores and convenience marts, people are probably caught on camera at least eight times per day.
"We are all on camera more than we realize," he said, "especially in the post 9-11 world. When people drive through red lights they violate the law either knowingly or unknowingly, and place themselves and others in danger of being injured or killed."
Bisignani said there is still to be a public hearing on the issue later this month and the contract negotiations are underway.