March 30, 2001

Drivers who try to beat the traffic signals at selected Wilmington intersections and don't had better start smiling. After Apr. 17, they will be on candid camera. That is when the city's Red Light Photo Enforcement Program is scheduled to go into operation.

It will cost the owners of vehicles which enter an intersection after the signal shows red at a speed which indicates deliberate intent to violate the law $50. They will receive the summons in the mail a few days later. During the first 30 days of operation, warnings will be issued instead of summonses.

Automatic cameras will record the violations. Initially, they will be mounted at five city intersections where red light running is a relatively frequent occurrence with an additional 10 intersections to be targeted soon after startup.

City Councilman Gerald Brady, who sponsored enabling legislation approved by Council last July, said the intent is not to increase the amount collected in fines but to deter a dangerous practice which has become increasingly common. According to a published study, Delaware ranks ninth among the states in the proportionate number of accidents attributed to running red lights.

The new program "addresses a major public safety problem which all [jurisdictions] have to deal with, especially in the urban environment where you create a safety hazard when police vehicles stop violators," Brady said. "We also hope to send a message to drivers." 

Tests of the new system found up to an average of 88 violations a day at one of the targeted intersections, New Castle and Christiana Avenues. Concord Avenue and Broom had a total of 87. There were 77 at South Walnut and A Streets.

As first reported by Delaforum, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp. will conduct the program under a three-year contract. The firm will receive $43 from each paid ticket for the first 50,000 and $30 for each one after that.

Brady said that the idea originated in Sweden, where the camera that is used was invented. It has proven successful in Europe and is now being adopted in several locales in the United States and Canada.

He said implementation of the program in Wilmington was delayed primarily while arrangements were made for adjudication of disputed summons in justice of the peace court.  Photographs of violations, however, are considered prima facie evidence of a violation and state law now permits levying the fine against the owner of the vehicle.

When a vehicle enters an intersection illegally its motion trips the shutter of a mounted camera. It takes a black-and-white picture of the rear of the vehicle, showing its license plate. Ownership is determined by tracing that through motor vehicle registrations.

The Bureau of Police selected the intersections where the cameras will be placed. A few intersections found to have a high number of violations had to be eliminated because their physical layout did not provide a suitable place for a camera.

One of those is New Castle and Christiana Avenues where the largest number of violations were found. In that case, it also was decided that intersecting traffic on Christiana was not of a large enough volume to pose as much of a safety threat as existed at other places. 

Of those finally selected, the one with the highest average of violations during the validation tests was Fourth and Union Streets with 62 light-runners in vehicles traveling south on Union. About a third of the violations occurred between 4 and 5 p.m.

Ranked second was Lancaster Avenue and Du Pont Street, where there were 59 by vehicles eastbound on Lancaster. Those offenses were spread over most of the day with the largest average being a dozen between 7 and 8 a.m.

Northbound traffic on Concord Avenue at Broom Street came in third with 58 violations while drivers traveling southbound on Concord Avenue went through the light 29 times. Peak time for the former was during the afternoon rush when the heavier volume is leaving the city. There was no hourly report on the southbound traffic available. That is the only intersection among those now targeted where cameras will be aimed in more than one direction.

Although Pennsylvania and Woodlawn Avenues was found to have the fourth most frequent incidence of violations -- 54 eastbound on Pennsylvania with more than a third during the morning rush -- the Pennsylvania-Greenhill Avenues intersection two blocks away has been selected for the initial operation with eastbound traffic targeted. The test found that intersection had an average of 35 violations.

Other selected intersections and directions of travel, listed in descending order of the number of violations found during the test, are: Lancaster Avenue eastbound at Lincoln Street; Union northbound at Prospect Road; Fourth eastbound at West Street; King Street southbound at 11th Street; Fourth westbound at Orange Street; Lancaster eastbound at Broom Street; Northeast Boulevard southbound at 12th Street; Lancaster eastbound at Jackson Street; Northeast southbound at 30th Street; and Adams Street northbound at Second Street.

Brady said it will be possible to relocate the cameras to other intersections and eventually to place them in vehicles which can be posted anywhere in the city.

"What we hope this does is to modify behavior so that drivers are more careful to obey the lights everywhere," he said.

2001. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read previous story: Cameras to enforce traffic-signal law
See monitor camera photos of violations in Victoria, B.C.
Read what the Federal Highway Administration has to say





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