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Jefferson City Council might install traffic cameras

City would get $75 per ticket in bid to improve safety

POSTED: December 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Most adults and even some children realize that a green traffic light means go, yellow means slow down and red means stop.

Just because that information seems like common knowledge, it doesn’t mean that all drivers obey those rules.

That’s why the chief of police in Jefferson is asking the City Council to consider installing red light traffic cameras at several intersections in the city.

Joe Wirthman, Jefferson’s police chief, says a serious problem with drivers running red lights along the Damon Gause Bypass has led to other, more serious issues.

"In a year, we’ve had 69 accidents in just a one mile stretch of road between Hog Mountain Road and Concord Road," Wirthman said. "There was some construction in that area too, so that was a part of the problem, but a lot of it was that people just don’t want to obey the law."

During a recent City Council meeting, a representative from LaserCraft — a company that installs red light cameras — told the council that research has shown installing traffic cameras tends to increase the number of rear-end collisions while drivers become accustomed to the new cameras. The representative also said the cameras tend to decrease the number of more violent side collisions.

Should the City Council approve installing traffic cameras, it would cost the city $5,125 per camera to operate the equipment each month.

"At a time when the budget is being crunched, we don’t want to have expenditures that can’t be covered by generated revenue," Wirthman said. "But our first concern is public safety, and if we can’t get people to obey the law and save lives by reducing the number of violent collisions, then the expense is worth it."

In order for the system to pay for itself, each traffic camera would need three violations per day.

"We put up cameras at three intersections for 12 hours in the middle of the week for just one day, and in that time alone we had 46 violations," Wirthman said.

According to Wirthman, the majority of the violations occurred at the intersection of Interstate 85 and the Damon Gause Bypass.

Currently, there aren’t any traffic signal cameras in Jefferson, but Wirthman says the addition of the cameras could be beneficial to the overall safety of Jefferson.

"If the number of accidents lessen up, then I wouldn’t have to tie up two or three officers at an accident scene, which means they would be free to do more proactive patrols around the city," he said.

Although the city stands to gain $70 per traffic violation caught by the red light cameras, Wirthman says the additional citations wouldn’t require the hiring of an additional officer.

"We already have a person who handles probation and parole who could take on the responsibilities of signing off on the citations each morning," he said.

No decision has been made by the City Council concerning the traffic cameras. Before the equipment could be installed, the Georgia Department of Transportation also would have to approve the project because Damon Gause Bypass, where it is proposed cameras be placed, is a state owned roadway.



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