Salinas police eyeing red light cameras to curb crashes
Joe Szydlowski, The CalifornianPublished 5:26 p.m. PT April 1, 2018
Citing more than 500 injury crashes in 2017, including eight fatal ones, Salinas police are eyeing red-light cameras to curb dangerous driving — albeit through $485 fines for violators.
The plan's details with Redflex Traffic Systems are still being ironed out and have yet to go before the city council. But Salinas police chief Adele Fresé says the technology would allow police 24/7 traffic enforcement at busy intersections without requiring as much time from officers.
"Can we put cops on every intersection? No. If we hired more than 50 officers, can we put them at every intersection? Probably not," Fresé told the Salinas Police Community Advisory Committee last week in a discussion on the cameras.
If one catches someone blow though a red light, it snaps photos to ID both the license plate and the driver in addition to video, said Marc Carroll, client services specialist at Redflex.
Redflex then sends the information to police, who review it to determine whether the driver violated a red light, he said.
Tickets given via a red light camera are treated the same those given by police officers, and can be challenged in court, he said. They amount to about $500 per violation, he said.
That's a hefty fine, but it's only issued if officers review the footage and determine the driver ran a red light, Fresé said.
Those running red lights can cause dangerous crashes, she said.
According to police data, out of a total of 80 crashes involving pedestrians in 2017, about 50 involved violating someone's right of way — including five fatal pedestrian collisions.
"Rolling stops can kill pedestrians and they have in this city," she said. This year, Salinas police investigated a crash in which a young bicyclist suffered major injuries from a driver doing a rolling stop, she said.
More than 90 percent of those receiving one ticket don't get a second one, Carroll said.
Cities with cameras saw their crashes drop by 14 percent and fatal crashes drop by 21 percent, he said, citing a 2016 Insurance Institute For Highway Safety study.
The cameras cannot be used to cite people for other infractions, such as texting and driving, he said.
However, they do offer live streaming to assist other police investigations, such as searching an area for a suspect's vehicle, he said.
Other than a monthly invoice for the equipment, Redflex doesn't bill the city. Instead it recoups its costs by taking a portion of the paid fines, which also are divvied up between state and local agencies, he said.
Which intersections would get cameras is still being worked out, Fresé said. But police already have identified 2017's 10 most dangerous intersections.
According to police data, Laurel Drive, Boronda Road and North Main Street's intersections were the most perilous.
In the top 10 worst intersections, a total of 109 people were injured in 152 crashes. Those, however, represent only about 14 percent of all injury crashes in the 500 intersections in Salinas.
The police advisory committee's seven appointed members unanimously voted to recommend the city council move forward with the cameras.
Leopoldo De La Rosa acknowledged the stiff fines for violators, but said he's met three other people in cities with red-light cameras who "learned their lesson."
Fresé plans to finish the proposal and bring it before the Salinas city council in May.