Red light for Redflex
Company flouted Denver contract
By Rocky Mountain News
Sunday, January 11, 2009
It's time to put the brakes on a contract to nab red-light runners by taking pictures of their license plates.
While the intention is to catch lawbreakers on Denver's streets, the benefits of the program aren't clear. Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., working under a contract to monitor four intersections and regularly report back to the city on everything from performance to required maintenance, "hasn't submitted a single page of the mountains of data the contract requires since the cameras went live last summer," according to Rocky reporter Kevin Flynn.
Or at least hadn't, until Flynn got on the case.
Trouble is, the Denver Police Department hadn't asked for any data, either. It was the Rocky's Open Records Act request that spurred both parties into action, with the police finally requesting reports and Redflex finally handing over six months worth of data.
Under the contract, the city was supposed to get $25 back from Redflex whenever its equipment failed to clearly photograph all but 2 percent of detected red-light runners. Without any reporting on system outages or other mechanical shortfalls, though, who knows how much the city is due? The just-delivered reports, now being reviewed by police, should eventually give us an idea, but the company's indifference to the terms of the contract is shocking.
So is the indifference of the police. It appears they were less interested in actually deterring lawbreakers who put the public at risk than in raking in cash from tickets.
The experience of the past year has proved one thing, though: Longer yellow lights are more important to traffic safety than $90,000 camera systems at select intersections.
When yellow lights at three of the monitored intersections were just three seconds long - the legal minimum - red-light violations were as high as 125 in just 12 hours. When the yellow lights were extended to four or five seconds, the cameras nabbed a daily average of 11.7 violators at the three intersections.
Inexplicably, though, the yellow light at eastbound Sixth Avenue at Lincoln Street was only lengthened half a second. As a result, an average of 53 violators are still caught each day with a 3.5-second yellow signal.
A study last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Philadelphia found that increasing the yellow light by one second at select intersections reduced violations by 36 percent. The institute also found that adding red-light cameras to the longer yellow signal reduced violations even further.
In the interest of safer streets, the yellow light at Sixth and Lincoln should be extended to a full four seconds. In the interest of accountability and the prudent use of taxpayer dollars, the city should seriously consider canceling Redflex's contract when it comes up for review next month - and finding a company that cares about the rules.
© Rocky Mountain News