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Red light cameras increase safety
The Frisco Police Department has seen a dramatic decrease in accidents following the installation of three red light cameras in March 2011.
Data suggests the cameras have been highly beneficial for both the city and the safety of drivers. Overall, 5,100 violations of drivers running red lights have been recorded, and red light violations have decreased 34 percent when comparing the most recent data to the first full month of data.
Lt. David Shilson said the decision to install red light cameras came after considering multiple factors.
"One [factor] is crash data and what that shows -- we have to look at where we're having crashes based on red light running being the cause," Shilson said. "And additionally we'll look at input from our citizen advisory committee. We have a group of citizens that are appointed by each city council member, and they weigh in with input. Then -- from an engineering standpoint -- we look at traffic count and input from the vendor."
The three cameras are found at two intersections; two cameras are located at the intersection of Preston Road and Lebanon Road, and one is located at Preston Road and Gaylord Parkway. Since the cameras were implemented, total crashes as the two intersections have declined by almost 50 percent.
American Traffic Solutions provided the cameras to the city with no up-front cost. The city has since paid a flat monthly fee to the company that is similar to a rental agreement, Shilson said.
When a potential red light violation is first recorded, it's sent to American Traffic Solutions, which begins the process of verifying violations.
"They have their staff review it, and they make sure the images look good and that there actually is a violation," Shilson explained. "Then they'll put it in a format to send to us. We then review it, make sure it's a violation, and make sure the license plate matches what's captured in the image. Then we approve it, and that's when they prepare the notice and send out a letter [to violators]."
Shilson speculates that a number of infractions are caused from simple driver inattentiveness.
"A lot of it is just distractions; people aren't paying attention," he said. "I don't have a lot of concrete evidence to back that up, but a lot of times drivers aren't paying attention and don't realize until it's too late that the light's red."
While data regarding intersection fatalities wasn't immediately available, Shilson said the Frisco Police Department has dealt with a few intersection fatalities over the past five years.
Red light cameras don't just help the police department in regards to intersection issues, however. The system also helps the police department free up resources that are better served elsewhere.
"Of course the intersections are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a camera, Shilson said. "Whereas if we tried to do that same thing with an officer it would take a lot of officers and a lot of man hours. We generally need them in other places doing other things."
The Frisco Police Department is currently in the process of gathering additional data from other Frisco intersections to determine if more red light cameras are necessary. The department will then work with the Citizen Advisory Committee and American Traffic Solutions to determine where additional cameras should be placed.
When it came down to it, Shilson said, installing the cameras was part of the police department's duty to Frisco residents.
"The numbers have shown pretty good results -- from a public safety standpoint, I don't think we'd be doing our jobs if we didn't use the technology like we have," he said.