Moses Lake traffic cameras approved
Posted: Thursday, Apr 13, 2006 - 03:31:06 pm PDT
By Brad W. Gary
Herald staff writer

Red light runners could face $101 fine
MOSES LAKE -- The snap of a camera shutter is on track for a spot perched atop a few intersections in Moses Lake.

The city council paved the way for enforcement cameras at city red lights with the unanimous passage of legislation to authorize their use to catch light runners at the city's major intersections. Council members adopted the plan with little discussion at Tuesday's meeting, at which the city and public spent much of their time discussing a proposed ban on fireworks.

Moses Lake Police Chief Dean Mitchell said the city still has to contract with one of about four private vendors to run the traffic camera program. From the proposals the city has received so far he said the program would be revenue neutral, without impacts on the police department's budget.

"They claim whatever the volume that it won't cost the city to run the program," Mitchell said.

The police department is currently targeting three intersections: Valley and Stratford Roads, Broadway Avenue and Alder Street, and Third Avenue and Pioneer Way. The stretch of Stratford Road between Valley Road and Broadway Avenue is one of the busiest in Moses Lake, and one at which the city has counted more than 32,000 trips over during a 24-hour period in 2005.

Mitchell has said red light running and drivers following too close have been cited as the leading cause of accidents at the Valley and Stratford roads intersection, which saw close to 90 accidents from 2001-2005.

The state Legislature approved using traffic enforcement cameras last year, and a few cities in western Washington have already installed the cameras. State law prohibits the cameras from capturing the faces of drivers, but the video cameras would simultaneously photograph both vehicle license plates and the traffic light itself.

The code presumes the car's registered owner is driving, but violators can prove through the legal system that someone else was driving.

Mitchell and City Manager Joe Gavinski have said the city must add signs at each of the planned intersections to make clear which ones will be using the cameras. The owner of any car caught driving through these red lights will be mailed a $101 fine. Because the violation will be caught by a camera and not an officer, they have said the ticket will not go on a violator's driving record and will be similar to a parking ticket.