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Red light cameras delayed

September 26, 2000

Red light cameras delayed



By DON WORTHINGTON / Staff Writer


Cameras to catch those who run red lights in Hagerstown probably won't be put up until spring 2001 and the installation sites may not be disclosed, the city's mayor and police chief said Tuesday.

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Hagerstown plans to install photo enforcement cameras, which members of the Washington County Community Traffic Safety Coalition hope will cut back on the number of motorists who run red lights.

Photo enforcement cameras reduce red-light running by 40 percent to 50 percent at all intersections, according to information from the coalition.

The coalition made its second annual appeal to area motorists to put on the brakes and stop for red and yellow traffic lights. The coalition is comprised of law enforcement officers, health officials, state highway officials and interested citizens.

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Dr. Marc E. Kross, director of the Washington County Hospital trauma center, said an accident resulting from running a red light can be as traumatic as a 50 mph to 60 mph head-on collision.

"With front contact the carnage is prevented if there are air bags and seat belts are worn," Kross said.

But in a 25 mph to 30 mph side collision where most cars do not have air bags, injuries to the lungs, spleen and liver can be severe, he said.

According to 1999 police statistics, 114 of the 1,233 traffic accidents in Hagerstown involved a traffic light. In those accidents, police issued 57 citations for running a red light. In all, police cited 372 motorists for running red lights in 1999.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Police Chief Arthur R. Smith said City Council will determine whether to make public the locations of the photo enforcement cameras. They said they favor not releasing the locations initially because they want drivers to observe the lights at all city intersections.

Earlier this year the city announced it was considering six intersections as possible camera sites: Potomac Street at Franklin Street, Potomac Street at Washington Street, Potomac Street at Wilson Boulevard, Edgewood Drive and Dual Highway, Franklin Street at Mulberry Street and Washington Street at Burhans Boulevard.

The final four sites will be selected based on the number of incidents per hour at each intersection, Smith said.

City Engineer Bruce Johnston said the city is meeting with Howard County officials next week and may complete contract negotiations. The city is piggy-backing onto contracts Howard County has with three subcontractors for the photo enforcement equipment. Howard County has cameras at 20 intersections.

The cameras take three pictures when a car runs a red light, Smith said. One photo lists the speed of the car, another lists how long the light was red, and the third shows the vehicle's license plate.

The ticket is mailed to the owner of the car. The fine is $75 and is treated like a parking ticket. "You are responsible for your car," no matter who is driving it, Smith said.

The fine does not carry any point penalty on the owner's driving license.

When a police officer writes a ticket for running a red light, the fine is $120 and two points against one's driving record, Smith said.

The cost of the cameras is $7,500 per intersection. Johnston said fines from violators may reimburse the city for its cost to install the cameras.

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