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Red Light Cameras Could Start Snapping in Powder Springs

A high number of accidents at certain intersections has officials considering the technology, which would pop violators with a $70 ticket per violation.

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.

Should Powder Springs get traffic light cameras? Tell us in the comments.

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oldlady September 27, 2012 at 02:35 PM
If that's what it takes to get people to comply with laws, yes, absolutely. I'd also like to see cameras on emergency vehicles to capture and ticket those driving who will not get out of the emergency vehicles way when they are trying to get to the fire or whatever. Too bad they haven't found out a way to deal with people and cell phones which isn't a conducive way to support good driving habits.
Oldtimer September 27, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Old lady....amen.....and yesterday I was a car pass a stopped school bus. I hope it is one with a camera.
Brian September 27, 2012 at 07:36 PM
This story is eerily similar to the events that took place here in Arnold, MO around 2006. If anyone wants to know how ineffective cameras are at increasing public safety, we are a prime example. After inventing the problem that red light runners were endagering the public, we had them installed at four intersections at the behest of American Traffic "Solutions". Violations increased year-by-year as did accidents! Our families were LESS SAFE at these intersections, but the revenue was too enticing for the city and ATS end the program. Last year the MO Dept. of Transportation realized that amber lights were not long enough at the red light camera intersections. They were properly adjusted and immediately violations dropped significantly. Entrusting public safety to cameras shows a complete lack of critical thinking on behalf of your municpal leadership. Encourage them to properly engineer their intersections if there really is a problem. Sending a bill in the mail to the owner of a vehicle that went through a red light is a poor solution to improving a person's driving habits. A police officer who can verify the driver, that person's address and put points on licenses is a much more effective deterrent. Not to mention that the chiggers at Ft. Benning are easier to get rid of than American Traffic Solutions once you sign their contract! Ask Houston, TX about that.
oldlady September 28, 2012 at 06:06 PM
You've certainly got a good point!
Carol September 28, 2012 at 07:46 PM
There is a little town in the Florida panhandle that uses a few red light cameras. The accident rate as well as the number of people who run red lights have both decreased since the cameras were installed. It DOES work. I'm surprised at the low number of red light runners reported in the article. I am frequently at James Parkway and Oglesby/Lewis and it is not uncommon to see TWO red light runners at a time. And really not uncommon to see them every time I'm at that intersection.
Brian Ceccarelli September 28, 2012 at 09:38 PM
"Those people caught zipping through the light" is the direct outcome of Powder Springs' traffic engineers subjecting people to a federal standard called the yellow light duration formula which opposes the laws of physics. Beating the light, slamming on the brakes, not having enough time to turn or slow down before entering an intersection, and running a red light by up to 4.5 seconds, is the result of yellow duration that provides 50% of the time a driver needs to come to a stop. For turning drivers, traffic engineers are even less generous; they give you 30%. For a full description of the fraud which based on the pseudo-science of traffic engineers see: http://redlightrobber.com
Carol September 28, 2012 at 11:41 PM
I think it's less about the time and timing of the yellow light and more people just don't care because it's all about THEM and where they need to be. Like everyone else, I hate to wait at traffic lights (especially some of them up and down 278) BUT I generally plan on a good 3-5 minute wait. If I don't have the time to wait, I should have planned better. I have actually seen people make a right onto James Parkway, then a U-turn to get to Lewis because that traffic light holds soooooooo long for James but so short a time for Lewis you're likely not going to get to go anyway. Just this evening I was the third car in line and the light changed to yellow before I got under it. I'm sure my next door neighbor went under it on red since he was behind me. I live near Lewis/Oglesby and James Parkway. Almost daily we hear the sirens coming from the fire station on Hiram Lithia. It's a horrible intersection. Blaming "yellow light duration formula" is passing the buck. It's the drivers who are at fault.
Oldtimer September 29, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Amen...Carol...
Terri Becker Foschini September 29, 2012 at 02:47 AM
“I didn’t have any idea there were that many accidents,” Mayor Pat Vaughn said. “That’s a lot of accidents.” So what is a mayor supposed to know about a town? I would like to think that the intersections with high accidents reported would be an issue that the Mayor would be informed of in Powder Springs. I'm not being sarcastic or argumentative but really shouldn't the issue be finding ways to prevent the accidents not just ticketing those who zoom passed a yellow traffic light or even into the possible fatal red light causing tragedy to drivers and the passengers in the danger zone, instead of just ticketing as a source of revenue for the town.
Amari September 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Hi Mrs. Foschini, my name is Amari Green. I am a senior at McEachern Highschool and our homecoming dance is this Saturday Oct. 6th. I saw some of the candid shots you took during prom on the website homemadedaze.com. They were absolutely beautiful! Basically I am contacting you because I would love to contact and discuss you being my group's photogropher. My e-mail address is amari2013@yahoo.com, please contact me at your earliest convience. Have a great day. :)

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