Drive speed limit or lower

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David Beams

By John Huotari |
The Oak Ridger
Posted Jun 09, 2009 @ 09:00 AM
City officials say there are no new driving rules to follow around the red-light and speed-enforcement cameras.

That means drivers should drive at the speed limit or slower and stop at the intersection stop bar when the traffic light facing them is red, Oak Ridge Police Chief David Beams said.

Right turns are still allowed on red lights at intersections with cameras as long as drivers stop first, he said. Signs would have to be posted to prohibit right turns on red, Beams said.

In a brief interview, Beams and Oak Ridge City Manager Jim O'Connor responded to a series of questions that have been raised by citizens since the cameras went into operation at two busy Oak Ridge intersections and before they go into operation in two school zones.

Among the questions:

Will I get a ticket from one of the cameras if I'm doing, say, 36 mph in a 35 mph zone?

Can I still make right turns on red at Oak Ridge Turnpike and New York Avenue/Lafayette Drive?

Have the yellow caution lights been shortened or lengthened to either increase or decrease the likelihood of running a red light and being caught on camera?

Why is there no camera at one of the busiest intersections, Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue?

Beams and O'Connor would not say whether any kind of "buffer zone" has been built into the cameras, allowing drivers to travel up to 5 mph over the speed limit, for example, before getting a ticket from one of the speed-enforcement cameras.

O'Connor said anyone speeding, even if they are only driving 1 mph over the speed limit, is subject to a citation.

If someone is driving in a 35 mph zone and they don't want a ticket, Beams said, "They need to drive at 35 mph or less."

However, police officers reviewing the tickets issued by the red-light and speed-enforcement cameras do have a certain amount of discretion, O'Connor said. They can, for example, look at weather conditions at the time the citations were issued.

Beams said there has been no change in the timing of the yellow caution lights, which is based on engineering recommendations.

He also said a red-light/speed-enforcement camera has not been installed at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue because of an ongoing construction project to widen that roadway from Illinois Avenue to Westover Drive.

"It's not practical to put a system in there now," Beams said. But it could be possible in the future if the Oak Ridge City Council approves, he said.

Also last week, Tammy Dunn, Oak Ridge senior staff attorney, said a driver could theoretically get $100 worth of citations from the cameras if they ran a red light while speeding, picking up one $50 citation for the red-light violation and another $50 citation for the speed-limit violation.

Cameras that catch red-light and speed-limit violations have been installed at Oak Ridge Turnpike and New York Avenue/Lafayette Drive, as well as at Illinois Avenue and Robertsville Road. Three of those cameras -- there are two at each intersection -- were supposed to have ended their 30-day warning periods as of Monday.

Meanwhile, speed-enforcement systems in two school zones, one near Willow Brook Elementary School and the other in front of Oak Ridge High School, are expected to soon begin their 30-day warning periods.

John Huotari can be contacted at (865) 220-5533.