POSTED: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 4:45am
UPDATED: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:29am
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — Drivers in Baton Rouge will need to keep their fear of those red lights cameras a little while longer.
The Metro Council chose Wednesday to extend the city's contract to keep them up and running.
Baton Rouge has 27 of the cameras around town, taking photos each time someone decides to blow through a red light. Its five-year contract with American Traffic Solutions expires next week, so the mayor's office asked the council to renew it for another five years.
"Red light running is a very serious problem," said John J. Price, the mayor's chief administrative officer. "It is the type of problem that creates collisions that cause significant injuries, if not deaths."
Price told the council that people get the message they have to drive safer every time they see the flash.
"Of all the people who have paid a red light ticket or violation, 88% of them do not get a second one," he claimed.
But drivers told NBC33 they do not believe the cameras help. And often, they do not work.
"Sometimes, a lot of mistakes done by the camera," said Truong Nguyen. "They was snapping it too early or too late."
"I don't see a purpose for them," said Denita Nelson. "They're making money off, for the cities, sending people tickets. It's just unnecessary."
The council was also skeptical. Several other cities have abandoned their red light camera programs, finding that they don't cut down on the number of crashes. They wanted to know which intersections are the most dangerous, but the city said almost half of the data it received about crashes was later shown to be inaccurate.
"And we receive it well after the time period," Price admitted. "The information that we had last was received in January of 2012. It covered the 2010 calendar year."
That stunned the council members.
"To me, it's amazing that the city of Baton Rouge does not have these numbers, does not have the statistics to be able to back that it is (beneficial to) public safety," said Councilman Buddy Amoroso.
Price countered that the number of tickets is also proof that the program works. He claimed that red light violations have dropped 19% since 2010, when the full complement of cameras were installed.
Additionally, the city pays ATS on a commission basis. Only after a driver pays a ticket does the company receive a percentage of the fine. So while the city collects $1.67 million per year from violations, the program has no direct costs.
"The red light camera program is probably, in my opinion," Price said, "the most successful program that I've seen that the city has."
Critics of the red light cameras point to studies that show that making yellow lights just one second longer can reduce crashes by up to 40 percent. They also claim the cameras are ineffective before their pictures show only the car's license plate and not the driver.