Monday, March 7, 2011

Opportunity For CommunityTo Give Input On Red Light Runner Cameras

One of our readers sent us email to encourage the neighborhood to give input by 5pm today on several bills currently on the Washington State Legislative floor regarding red light runner cameras.

There are three red light runner cameras set up at the sometimes very dangerous five point intersection, "Five Corners," where Union Bay Place NE, Mary Gates Boulevard, NE 45th Street, 35th Avenue NE and Sand Point Way meet.

There have been many near collisions, not only between cars, but cars and pedestrians with cars driving very fast to to get through the intersection on a red light.

Currently there are five bills before the State addressing red light runner cameras, the reader told us.

Two follow the direction proposed by Tim Eyman in calling for a public vote before cameras can be installed. These bills, sponsored by Representatives Christopher Hurst and Bob Hasagawa, are House Bills 1098 and 1099.

Another bill, 1279, is supported by the City of Seattle and those recognizing that red light runner cameras improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. This bill clarifies existing law by specifically stating that cameras may be placed at intersections of two or more arterials, thus addressing court challenges at the highly dangerous Five Corners intersection. The bill is sponsored by several representatives including Representative Phyllis Kenney from the 46th Legislative District.

Two other bills similar to HB 1279 in the Senate are Senate Bills 5188 and 5301.  1279 and 5188 are currently confronting attempted amendments.

Last week, LCC wrote a letter to Senator Baxter who is proposing an amendment supporting the state's red light law, which says cameras are "restricted to two-arterial intersections."

In the letter LCC said:" It is an extremely dangerous intersection for pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles and has an 'F' level of service (LOS).  Currently, the cameras are situated on two of the arterials in compliance with state law, but because it is a multi-arterial intersection, there have been court challenges to some of the tickets issued.  It is important to clarify existing law to ensure that this type of location is covered."

In August of 2008, three cameras were installed at "Five Points", after the Laurelhurst Community Club voted unanimously to support neighbors requests as well as a submittal of more than 400 petition signatures, for installation of the cameras at the intersection. LCC requested funding for cameras in September of the previous year.

A representative from the City of Seattle said that for the first 10 months of last year, about 4,900 citations were issued at the Five Corners cameras. February 2010 alone had 315 citations issued.

Ninety-seven percent of those citations were about evenly divided between the east and westbound cameras - 2,234 eastbound and 2,458 westbound and 212 total from the northbound camera on Mary Gates Drive.

About 7,000 red light runner citations were issued in 2009, according to the Laurelhurst Newsletter published in April of last year.

If your car crosses the crosswalk after the light turns red, the car is photographed with a still camera and a short video. Then the Police Department reviews the photos to determine if a ticket should be mailed out to the car owner. The owner has 18 days to pay the fine, ask for a hearing or sign an affidavit attesting that he or she was not driving. The cost for the ticket is $124.

You can call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to give input. The person who answers will distribute comments received to the appropriate representatives in the House and Senate.

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