October 8, 2003

Naamans Road and Concord Pike has been selected as the first intersection in unincorporated New Castle County to be monitored by a traffic signal enforcement camera.

Delaware Department of Transportation expects to have first three of 20 cameras -- one in each county -- up and operating by Jan. 4, according to spokesman Mike Williams. That is about two months later than initially planned.

After the initial installations and a 90-day testing period, "we will work up" to the full complement authorized by law, he said.

The intersections are being chosen on the basis of frequency of accidents attributed to drivers running red lights.

To be monitored at  the Naamans Road-Concord Pike crossing is westbound traffic on Naamans crossing the pike or turning left onto it.

The DelDOT system, he explained, differs from the one employed in the city of Wilmington in that the cameras, when tripped by the speed of a vehicle approaching an intersection while the traffic signal is changing,  produce a 10- to 15-second digital videotape record of what happens next. Part of the sequence is a zooming-in on the offending vehicle's license plate.. Wilmington's cameras produce still photos of the violation and the license plate.

In the statewide system, the tapes are automatically transmitted to Nestor Traffic Systems, the Rhode Island-based contractor, and from there are sent to the police agency with jurisdiction over the intersection. In Wilmington, film has to be retrieved periodically from the cameras.

 Williams said an officer will review the tapes to determine whether a violation has occurred. A vehicle which is stopped beyond the control line but does not enter the intersection, for instance, would not be cited for a violation.

Violators will be notified by mail. They may pay the $75 fine or contest the citation in justice-of-the-peace court. The videotape will be used as evidence if the citation is challenged. The law provides that the owner of the vehicle is responsible for making the fine, regardless of who was actually driving.

Demerit points are not assessed against the person's driver's license, however. If stopped by a police officer for running a red  light and convicted of or pleading guilty to the offense results in a three-point penalty.

Nestor will be paid a portion of each fine, but the amount has not yet been determined, Williams said. He added that it will not be a percentage because that would give the appearance of an incentive. "It needs to be stressed that the point of the program is a safety issue," he said.

If operating costs prove to be higher than what is brought in in the way of fines, that will be all right because "the savings [from] preventing a fatal injury or property damage accident would far exceed the pay-out," he said.

For the first three months, while the system is being evaluated and debugged, only warnings will be issued to camera-caught violators, Williams said.

Use of plastic license plate covers are less likely to be effective in thwarting the system because a running tape is more likely to catch a glimpse of the number during the sequence than is a still camera flashing a close-up only once.

When the DelDOT system is fully installed, there will be 10 cameras in unincoproaated areas, six in Dover, two in Neark, one in Seaford and one in Elsmere.

2003. All rights reserved.

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