Marysville first with new red-light camera system
Marysville will be the first U.S. city to test a new automated device designed to predict and prevent vehicle accidents resulting from drivers running red lights. The system is offered by Redflex Traffic Systems , the company that provides and maintains red-light cameras at three Marysville intersections.
The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to re-approve a contract extension with Redflex that would expand the red light camera program from the four cameras at three intersections.
The vote also permits installation of the new device at selected intersections.
According to Sgt. John Osbourn of the Marysville Police Department, the collision avoidance system predicts when drivers are likely to run a red light. It then holds solid red lights in all directions until the potential red light runner has cleared the intersection.
The device, said Osbourn, "predicts right angle collisions based on speed and distance (of the traveling vehicle)."
An intersection has not been selected, but Third and F streets, which already has red light cameras now, appears a likely candidate.
A series of short videos presented during the council meeting showed instances where such collisions had occurred or been narrowly avoided at Marysville intersections, and where the new device could theoretically help drivers negotiate such situations safely.
City Councilman Dale Whitmore said he didn't want Marysville to be the first city in the country to try the system.
"I'm worried that it hasn't been tested somewhere else," he said. According to Osbourn, the system has been tested in Australia and other countries.
"And we can turn it off if, for some reason, it turns out to have some sort of negative impact," he said.
Whitmore said he approved of neither the addition of more red light cameras nor the new device.
"I think to move ahead with this is not useful for the city," he said.
A contract extension with Redflex had been approved by the council in September 2009. The original five-year contract between the city and Redflex expired in May 2010.
Caltrans approval for the installation of new cameras, however, was not received until earlier this month.
Osbourn called the delay, which rendered the previous negotiations null and void, "a bureaucratic quagmire."
Caltrans maintains 17 of the 22 signal lights in Marysville.
The new collision avoidance device cannot be installed at Caltrans intersection, according to Police Chief Wally Fullerton.
"Caltrans absolutely refuses to allow it where they control the signal phase timing," he said. The agency provided the city with "the most nonsensical reasons for denial."
The Police Department presentation cited a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which praised cities that install red light cameras.
Decision makers in those cities, according to the head of that organization, "despite the political backlash , are saving lives."
Resident Kelly Richcreek addressed the council Tuesday, recounting her own expensive mistake.
"I got one of those tickets and I deserved it," she said. Safety benefits outweigh the roughly $400 in cost to the delinquent driver, she said. "I hear complaints, but I'm for 'em."
Councilman Jim Kitchen seconded the sentiment with a story about a serious accident he narrowly escaped by looking both ways instead of trusting a green light.
"There is a cost to the citizens of Marysville and people visiting the city," said Whitmore in his argument against approving the contract.
"Yes, it costs money to the people who fail to stop at the red lights," said Kitchen. "People can avoid paying that cost. They just have to stop and obey the law."
"These are very dangerous intersections," said Councilwoman Christina Billeci, who favors the red light cameras. "I don't think you have to be an expert to see that."
Mayor Bill Harris said that while he isn't a fan of red light cameras, he believes the city needs them.
He characterized Marysville as a "sleepy little town that has 70-80,000 cars going though it daily."
"The fines are outrageous and unfair," he said of red light ticket penalties, "But I see no other alternative because we can't afford to hire traffic officers."