Tennessee House Committee to Look at Traffic Cameras

Submitted by Bill Mitchell on November 30, 2009 - 4:59pm. News | Consumer News | Government & Politics | Hamilton County News
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Some Georgia cities have dropped their photo-enforcement traffic programs because they don't make enough money.
That happened after lawmakers ordered some important changes last year in-favor of motorists.
Now Tennessee legislators are considering making similar changes.
Traffic cameras on the Hixson "S" curves have virtually stopped accidents on that deadly stretch of roadway.
And, Red Bank's cameras have turned Dayton boulevard into a safe, if slow trip through the city.
But the Transportation committee of the Tennessee House is holding hearings this week that could change the red-light camera program.
The specific proposal is to make the amber light a full second longer--about 5 seconds.
John Van Winkle will speak against that idea before the committee tomorrow.
JOHN VAN WINKLE, CHATTANOOGA TRAFFIC ENGINEER "What you could end up having is more wrecks because people think I've got all the time in the world to make that signal."
WAYNE HAMMEL, RED BANK PUBLIC WORKS DIR. "Ours, in this city are set at 4.3 seconds..the city does not set that time..we pay a third party to do that."
But regardless of proposed changes, some feel the intent is to kill the program. Red Bank, police Lt. Jay LaMance runs the department's traffic camera safety program. He's against any major changes.
LT. JAY LAMANCE, RED BANK POLICE "People will run more red lights if they think the camera is not there."
Cities that use traffic enforcement cameras are all accused of doing it more for the money, than for safety.
JOHN VAN WINKLE "Some people may see it as a money grab..that's not what it's about....we're trying to make the streets safer."
The Chattanooga red light cameras have raised about 1.7 million dollars in the last two years, some of which is now being used to underwrite driver's education programs in schools.
Red Bank's total take from cameras there was not available but Wayne Hammel says it goes into the general fund.
He adds, the focus is on the safety of people in Red Bank, not money.
Both cities say they don't have final numbers on how effective those photo-enhanced speed control systems have been.