Dayton Council mulls traffic light cameras
By: Jim Ashley
Source: The Herald-News

Motorists violating traffic laws in Dayton may soon be in for a shocking surprise.

At the request of Police Chief Chris Sneed, the city council on Monday evening voted to study the possibility of using cameras to monitor traffic lights at selected intersections.

Helping him make the request was Charles Turner of American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., which is providing traffic-camera monitoring services to Tennessee cities Gallatin, Jackson and Red Bank.

Turner noted that Red Bank, which installed the system last fall, has already recorded �approximately 60 percent accidents less than the previous year due to red-light running and speeding.�

Even at intersections where there are no cameras, �they�re also getting a reduction in red-light runners,� he added.

Explaining the monitoring system, Turner said it is connected to an Internet line and records both video and still images, including the date, time and place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The images, he said, �are crystal clear� and show how fast a vehicle was moving and how long the light was red before a vehicle ran through it.

Of course, it also shows if a person was going through an intersection under an yellow light, which is not considered a violation, he noted.

American Traffic Solutions, Turner said, will examine the photos and send to Dayton the ones that clearly show violations.

The police department will then examine them and an officer can write a citation.

New York City has been using the camera-monitoring system in recent years and has seen a �72 percent reduction in violations, a 41-percent reduction in collisions and a 35 percent reduction in total fatalities, Turner said.

Sneed pointed out that the system has also helped cities determine who was at fault in an accident at certain intersections where the cameras are located.

In one case, he noted, a man who was thought to have caused an accident was found to be not at fault when the photos were examined.

Councilman John Heath asked if there would be any cost to Dayton to install and maintain the system. Turner said American Traffic Solutions would cover all costs except paying the salary of a person to process photos when they are received by the police department.

A Dayton police officer, he said, would then have to determine if there was a violation, identify who owns the vehicle via the license plate number and then sign and mail the citation to the person.

Turner said American Traffic Solutions also has �online payment processing,� which allows a person receiving a ticket to go online and pay a fine after viewing photos of his or her vehicle going through an intersection.

And if someone challenges the photos in court, he said, �we have a 98-percent conviction rate.�

Money received from citations, according to Turner, is either split between American Traffic Solutions and the city, or the city can keep all proceeds and pay a flat fee for the service.

Heath asked about costs for citations and what the split would be.

Sneed, who noted that Red Bank was averaging 600 to 800 citations per month at two intersections, said that if one of his officers writes a ticket for running a red light, the cost is $82, but that the cost for the same violation detected by the camera system would be only $50.

Dayton, he noted, would get $18 per citation using the system.

Sneed also noted that if the system is installed, his department would give the public 30 days notice before the process of citing motorists for traffic violations would begin.

Also during the Tuesday meeting, the council voted to reject a request from QE2 to lift a moratorium that the city has on forced-main connections to its sewer system.

QE2, a Knoxville engineering company which is involved with the project to expand the sewer line to Frazier School, is also involved in a separate project to build a 90-home subdivision near the school.

As a result, QE2 had earlier asked the council for permission to connect a sewer line from the subdivision to the Frazier School sewer line once it is completed.

Dan Smith of QE2 attended Monday�s meeting and said the company was ready to proceed with the sewer project, which had been delayed for months.

QE2�s request to lift the moratorium was denied, however, when Chairman Bob Vincent, Jim Barnes and John Heath voted no. Councilmen Chris Conner and Bill Graham voted yes.

Vincent told The Herald-News that the vote on the issue Monday night was �not set in stone.� He said he voted against lifting the moratorium because there was too much uncertainty regarding the capacity of the sewer line to handle the 90 additional homes.

Among other items the council approved was a resolution to increase the retirement benefits of council members and to allow councilmen who have personal insurance to refuse the city�s insurance, keep their present insurance and be reimbursed for the cost of the not having the city�s insurance.

This past summer Rhea Family YMCA director Manny Carril offered to allow the city to build a skate park on its property and let the Y operate it.

The council liked the idea and asked City Attorney Susan Arnold to get with Carril and draw up a contract regarding the offer.

Arnold told the council Monday evening that Carril told her the Rhea Family YMCA is merging with the downtown Chattanooga YMCA and that he wanted to wait until after the first of the year to complete the contract regarding the skate park.

Jim Ashley can be reached at