Friday, 03/16/07
Drivers may be on candid camera
City looks at installing red-light cameras

By Jeremy Johnson
Hendersonville Star News

The safety of drivers in Hendersonville is leading city officials to consider following neighboring Gallatin's practice of installing cameras at major intersections.

"Based upon the extensive research conducted by the police department over the most recent year and the presentation for the potential vendors I believe these traffic enforcement devices would be an asset to the city taxpayers by making our roads safer," said Hendersonville Police Capt. Terry Frizzell.

Representatives with Reflex Traffic Solutions came to the city's Public Safety meeting Tuesday night, and by the time they had finished making their presentation aldermen on the committee decided to ask Mayor Scott Foster to let the company do a study on whether the cameras would be practical for Hendersonville.

During the presentation, Scerif Elsadek, regional sales director for Scottsville, Ariz.-based Redflex, said his company's cameras could reduce accidents in the city by 75 percent.

"We want to change driving behavior. We're not here to create revenue, we're here to generate safety," Elsadek told the committee.

At least one Hendersonville resident seems to think the idea is worth trying.

Zack Register said the traffic monitoring system in Gallatin has certainly changed his driving behavior through that city, adding he wouldn't mind cameras being installed in Hendersonville as long as it was clearly posted that the intersection was being monitored.

"I'm for it because if people realize their picture is going to be taken they are less likely to run the red light and kill a family of five. That family of five might be mine," Register said.

Gallatin residents Richard and Beverly Green say they are pleased with the change in traffic patterns they have seen in Gallatin, adding they hope the installation of cameras in Hendersonville will have the same effect.

"We've lived in Alabama, Texas, Indiana and Ohio and Tennessee seems to have the worst drivers of all of them. Of course they all may be transplants like us," Green said.

According to Elsadek, the cameras would catch violators as they run traffic lights by taking a picture of both the vehicle and the license plate as well as provide a 12 second video clip of the violation.

Violations are first reviewed by Redflex employees, who then put together an "evidence packet" including the vehicle owner's information, still photos of the violation and a twelve second video clip for police for review. Police would have the final say in violations, he said.

"This gives the police the ability to see if there were any contributing factors such a weather that lead to drivers running through the intersection," Elsadek said.

Once local police verify the violation, a citation along with pictures of the violation is mailed to the driver. Redflex would also be responsible for collecting the payment. A video of the violation is also available on-line.

Those receiving citations would be able to challenge the citation in city court, he added.

The intersection cameras could also provide police with images and video of an accident minutes after it occurred, he said, adding Redflex can provide police with 360 shots and video clips for accident reconstruction.

Operation of traffic camera system would not cost taxpayers anything through the city budget, the company official added.

According to Elsadek, Redflex keeps a set percentage of the maximum $50 fine that can be assed per violation.

For example, in the city of Knoxville, Redflex collects $42.50 from the first 90 violations a month through an intersection, and $25 from each additional violation.

Elsadek said the best part about the system is it is impartial.

"It doesn't matter what kind of car you have or the color of your skin. If you run a red light the camera takes your picture," he said.

The Gallatin Police Department installed a similar system in
September of 2006 and police officials say the cameras have definitely had an effect.

"We've seen a change in behavior. People stop now at the traffic lights when they turn into yellow lights instead of trying to punch through them," Lt. Kate Novitsky said.

Gallatin now has three intersections monitored by cameras from a different company, American Traffic Solutions.

The city has plans to install a fourth camera in the next few months, Novitsky said.