Safety Advocates Call On Legislature To Turn Red Light Cameras Back On
Dec 19, 2005, 02:08 PM

Virginia traffic safety advocates today called on the state legislature to reinstate the law that allowed seven Virginia communities to use automated enforcement technology to enforce red light running.

Representatives from AAA, The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University and several municipalities are part of a broad coalition working to see red light cameras restored to six Northern Virginia communities and Virginia Beach in the coming legislative session.

According to new statistics released by the Virginia Beach Police Department, red light running violations at several intersections formerly equipped with red light cameras have spiked over 99.5 percent since July when the law expired. The four intersections monitored have seen an increase from 488 in June to 1,056 in November. The validity of this increase is extremely sound as the same cameras which had been previously authorized for use simply stopped taking photos at the end of June, yet continued to monitor violations.

Virginia Beach Chief of Police A.M. “Jake” Jacocks said, “Consistent enforcement is needed to really improve traffic safety. These numbers clearly show the change in driver behavior once the enforcement period ended. We have seen the number of red light running violations jump dramatically since our cameras went dim. The citizens of Virginia support and approve the use of the red light cameras, and all of Virginia’s photo enforcement programs have shown a decrease in red light running violations. We need our legislators to re-enact photo enforcement in Virginia.”

“Last year, red light camera laws were approved in Washington and Rhode Island, and several additional states had cities use ‘home rule’ provisions to establish red light camera systems, but Virginia took a step backward by allowing this law to expire,” said Leslie Blakey, Executive Director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. “Red light cameras established a solid record of reducing red light violations and crashes in Virginia, and they need to be allowed to continue.”

Lon Anderson, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said, “The AAA Clubs in Virginia have made the reinstatement of red light cameras a legislative priority for 2006 because driver behavior, especially in the urban areas, is continuing to deteriorate. Red light photo enforcement is a proven deterrent to red light running that will prevent crashes and save lives and is an urgently needed tool in the metropolitan areas of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The actions of the state legislature went against the primary recommendation of a 2004 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council which urged the state legislature to extend the camera programs “for at least one year.” The study also directly credited the cameras with reducing red light running crashes in four Northern Virginia communities, found they reduced red light running violations by 34 percent, were technologically reliable, and had widespread public support.

In 2003, red light running in Virginia caused almost 5,000 crashes, resulting in at lease 18 deaths and more than 3,500 injuries. Red light running is the number one cause of intersection crashes in urban areas, and nationwide societal costs from red light running crashes top $14 billion per year.

Dr. Michel Aboutanos, a trauma physician with Virginia Commonwealth University, said, “I stand firmly with the Virginia medical community in its laudable effort to reduce the physical, mental, emotional and psychological suffering caused by careless or inattentive drivers who are not stopping for red lights. Trauma centers across Virginia cannot do it alone, and we need the state legislature to help us change the belief that breaking the law is permissible as long as you can get away with it.”

The Virginia Photo Red Coalition is a voluntary coalition of organizations including: AAA Mid-Atlantic; AAA Tidewater ,Virginia; Arlington, Virginia; the City of Virginia Beach Police Department; The Fairfax County Police Department; National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running; Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police; Virginia Association of Driver Education and Traffic Safety (VADETS); Virginia Injury Prevention Society; and other transportation safety advocates.