Red Light Cameras: Why Lakeland? Why Now?

rlc2.jpgNow that we see how red light cameras work we have to ask “Why do we need them?”

In Lakeland, the answer is you. You’re running red lights. Well, by you we primarily mean younger drivers with older cars. That’s according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They’re a big player in RLCs. More on them Thursday.

According to the Lakeland Police Department, the city commissioners received complaints from citizens about those running red lights. Your elected officials asked the police department to come back with an answer.

I could have saved them the trouble. There really is only one absolute answer to the problem or red light runners. Remove all traffic signals and make every intersection a four-way stop. OK, I agree, I also wouldn’t drive in that future Lakeland.

The first solution is engineering. There are procedures in place to reduce red light running, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem. It’s called amber timing. There are beaucoup engineering studies and theories about this fascinating subject. Look for those links Wednesday in Part Three.

More traffic enforcement would help. You could place a traffic officer at every major intersection to watch signals. We already have those crazy hanging white lights to help them monitor who runs red lights. You’ll just need many new traffic officers. However, I am willing to bet a majority of Lakeland voters won’t approve an increase in taxes to hire those officers..

Here’s the dilemma: reduce red light running, but don’t spend any cash. With that scenario red light cameras practically scream “solution.”. With the right contract, the RLC companies install the cameras and the city pays for everything with a percentage of dollars earned. Yeah, that is scary. With the wrong contract, a city could end up losing money. Though we all believe a bad contract could never happen here, there are some pitfalls we’ll warn the city about in Thursday’s post.

Still, there is that pesky amber timing issue. That looks like it might reduce red light running. But, seriously, that engineering talk will make your eyes bleed. I’ll try to make it as painless as possible in Part Three tomorrow.

That leaves the LPD looking at red light cameras. They had received a seminar from Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc, a company that makes red light cameras. Redflex thought RLCs were an answer for Lakeland. So did the LPD. So, that’s what they recommended to the city commissioners.

Yet, according to the LPD, red light cameras are not a done deal. They’re working with Don Nix in traffic control to test extending amber at a problem intersection. He’ll work with LPD to see if problems are reduced at the site. If it helps, the city could extend amber at other intersections. And I know I’m talking “extending amber” out of turn. Wait for it. But, I promise to explain it in Part Three.

The LPD also isn’t waiting for a solution. They keep track of the top ten intersections for crashes. Traffic officers see that on their intranet, and the LPD target the intersections in an effort to reduce problems.

Yesterday, we got the how and history of RLCs in general. Today’s post followed the clues to see why RLCs became a Lakeland concern, but aren’t the only path we’re scouting. Tomorrow, I’ll toss studies at you.