September 20, 2011
It has been almost a year since the red light cameras at Route 29 and Rio Road got the green light, but have they made the busy Albemarle County intersection safer?
The controversial safety measure was pitched as a way to discourage drivers from running red lights, thus reducing the number of crashes. New data just released by the Albemarle County Police Department shows the number of wrecks actually increased since the installation of the cameras, albeit barely.
There were 23 crashes between December 2010 and July of this year at the intersection compared to 22 crashes during the same period the year prior. Albemarle County Sgt. Darrell Byers says that's not what they expected to see.
“The numbers have not changed very much, but like I said, what we do see and what we'd like to see, are fewer crashes,” he said. “We have seen one additional rear-end crash over the same period as last year, and we will continue to monitor those.”
The number of crashes on Route 29 southbound and West Rio Road decreased, from eleven to eight and three to one respectively. However, crashes more than tripled on East Rio Road, from two to seven, and increased by one on Route 29 northbound. Despite some disappointing data, Byers believes the cameras have been effective.
As for the drivers caught running a red light, officials say there has not been a big change in the number of tickets issued, noting that the goal of the Photo Safe cameras is not to make money for the department.
“It's not a revenue maker for us,” he explained. “It's actually about safe driving habits. That's what we're out there for, that's what the cameras are out there for and that's what we want to see.”
That's good because Byers says revenue from ticketing has yet to match the $10,000 monthly cost of operating the cameras. So is what we're seeing nearly 12 months later enough to keep the cameras?
“The cameras are going to stay put for now, but we are going to continue to monitor the progress and continue to monitor the crashes at those intersections and see how effect they are,” said Sgt. Byers.
After nearly seven years with red light cameras, Los Angeles eliminated the program in August after an audit showed they had not "conclusively shown to have increased public safety" and ticket collections did not cover operation costs.
To learn more about the Albemarle County PhotoSafe Program, click here.