Few things are as infuriating as seeing a bright flash of light behind you after you’ve driven through an intersection; few things are as scary as being involved in a T-bone crash.
Ah, the red light camera debate.
Abington took a step closer yesterday to developing a red light camera ordinance when the public safety committee passed a motion approving, in concept, the red light camera program. The motion directs the township’s administration and its solicitor to develop the specific wording of such an ordinance.
Abington Police Deputy Chief Michael Webb delivered a presentation on the topic. Webb said Abington was one of 13 municipalities in the state approved to consider red light cameras because of its size and its police department’s accreditation status.
The program would be revenue neutral; the vendors receive a flat fee each month and the fee does not correlate to the number of citations issued.
- Capture the date, time, posted speed, approximate speed of vehicle, color of the light, length of the previous yellow light, length of red signal, and plate
- Shoot only the rear image of a vehicle
- Are not permitted to be used for surveillance
- The Vendor installs, maintains and transfers the images to the Abington Police Department
- Is a civil fine
- Is $100
- Does not interfere with insurance premiums
- Is linked to the vehicle, not the driver
- Funds in excess of running the program go back to PennDOT for transportation enforcement grants
According to Webb, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determines which intersections qualify for a red light camera based on congestion, traffic volume and PennDOT crash statistics. There are 12 intersections in the township that meet the criteria for having a red light camera.
The intersection with the dubious distinction of being first on that list?
“For us, probably the ‘poster child’ for a place to put a camera is Old York Road and Susquehanna Road — [it’s] the most challenging intersection we have in Abington with volume congestion and accidents … in addition, there is no place at York and Susquehanna for a police officer to monitor traffic and do enforcement,” Webb said.
The program is not completely automated. If a photograph of a vehicle were taken, it would be sent to Abington Police for review. Webb said the registration tag would be checked against PennDOT records, and police would check to see if there was a funeral, a weather condition or an emergency in the area at the time of the photo. He went on to say that a vehicle would not receive a citation if the vehicle was already in the intersection before the light turned red (for instance, waiting to make a turn).
According to an AP report, a New Jersey study found that intersections equipped with red light cameras saw fewer serious crashes, but those intersections saw a 20-percent increase in rear-end crashes. Webb conceded that there were more rear-end crashes, but said that in Philadelphia, those rear-end collisions curtailed after the first year.
Abington Police Chief William Kelly likened the red light program to getting a parking ticket or getting E-ZPass. Abington Commissioner Steven Kline, who is not on the public safety committee, disagreed.
“I can’t remember ever talking about a systematic red light problem,” Kline said, adding that police officers would better serve the community by combating drivers who speed and blow stop signs in residential areas.
In mid November, the firm Public Policy Polling asked 900 Montgomery County residents what they thought of red light cameras. Sixty-five percent of Abington residents approve of the cameras; 76 percent of Norristown residents approve; and 63 percent of Lower Merion residents approve.
Should the township ultimately adopt the program, there would be a 60-day warning period.