Those zipping through intersections to beat red lights in Powder Springs could be paying a price for their lead feet.
A high number of accidents at intersections along the city’s biggest thoroughfares—C.H. James Parkway and Sailors Parkway—has officials considering traffic light cameras, which would pop red-light runners with a $70 ticket per violation.
“One of the patrol officers recognized that when we have a traffic accident on C.H. James and any of the cross streets, they’re usually large,” Police Chief Charlie Sewell told the City Council at Wednesday’s work session. “There are usually injuries and … they are much worse than most other places.”
Sewell mentioned several metro Atlanta counties and cities that use the technology, the closest being Marietta. He gave the council injury and accident totals at three intersections from the past year:
- C.H. James and Brownsville Road: 14 people injured in 30 accidents
- C.H. James and Florence Road: 9 people injured in 31 accidents
- Sailors and New Macland Road: 17 people injured in 35 accidents
“I didn’t have any idea there were that many accidents,” Mayor Pat Vaughn said. “That’s a lot of accidents.”
In spite of the injuries, there haven’t been any traffic fatalities since Sewell was hired more than a year ago.
Since Sewell was just giving a report, the council won’t need to vote on anything when they meet Monday. Before moving forward with a contract, a representative from the traffic light camera company American Traffic Solutions will come talk with the council and address their questions.
The contract would be for five years, but Sewell explained how it will have language saying that, by law, it can’t be carried on past city elections.
ATS did a one-day survey at the intersections mentioned above and spotted eight runners northbound at C.H. James and Brownsville, eight southbound, eight total at C.H. James and Florence, and 13 total at Sailors and New Macland.
The company gets the first $4,800 in fines a month per intersection, and the city keeps the rest. If the fines are below that amount, ATS eats the loss. Based on the test day, Sewell said each camera could rack up an estimated $10,500 in fines monthly.
The cameras—installed by ATS with no cost to the city—record video of the intersections and snap pictures of vehicles’ license plates, not the people inside. “Too many people got caught riding with the wrong person in the car,” Sewell joked.
ATS does the first review of potential violators, and then pictures and 12 seconds of video are sent to the Powder Springs Police Department, which makes the final determination to issue tickets. Sewell said this would take an officer about 30 minutes daily.
The city can choose from two options on what to do if the car’s owner wasn’t driving: issue the owner the fine regardless, or give them the choice to sign an affidavit saying who was driving.
The tickets don’t add any points to driving records, and they don’t affect insurance.
In accordance with state law, an extra second of yellow-light time must be added to the current four seconds, and a sign must be posted before each intersection warning of the cameras. Sewell also noted how GPS navigators tell drivers a camera-armed traffic light is coming up.
The fines and a follow-up warning are mailed by ATS under the city of Powder Springs logo. It will be up to the city whether to pursue violators who don’t pay, Sewell said.
The chief noted how the video footage could also help police determine who is at fault in accidents at the intersections.