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Should local cities unplug traffic light cameras?

Staff Report • Jan 7, 2013 at 11:27 AM

One of the first municipalities in Tennessee to install cameras to cite drivers who run red lights will soon remove them. The city of Red Bank in Hamilton County plans to turn off its red-light cameras at midnight on Jan. 19.

Red Bank leaders say the cameras have recorded more than 72,000 red-light violations at three intersections since they were activated in 2006. Law enforcement officials there also say the cameras have greatly improved safety at those intersections.

They also say the traffic cameras can do something that no community can now afford to do through traditional policing — have 24/7 enforcement in place at trouble intersections.

Critics, however, argued the cameras left a negative impression on motorists driving through the area. Others said the traffic cameras were nothing more than a revenue-generating scheme on the part of the local government.

Similar complaints have been heard in Jonesborough and Johnson City, which have also installed red-light cameras. Last year, Johnson City officials released a report that found the cameras had played a part in reducing major collisions at six intersections since they were first installed in 2010.

The number of crashes at the six intersections declined by nine in 2011. City officials said one of the goals of the traffic cameras was to reduce the number of right- and left-angle crashes. The city recorded four fewer angle crashes during a period between 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile, rear-end crashes increased by 16 during the same period. Police officials said the number of rear-end crashes was an anomaly and should eventually level out as drivers get more acquainted with the camera-enforced intersections.

At the same time, city revenues from fines and court costs from red-light citations have declined.

We want to hear from you. Do you think it’s time Johnson City and Jonesborough follow Red Bank’s lead and unplug their traffic light cameras?

Send comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Include your name, phone number and address for verification. We will print responses in the coming weeks.

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