Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The District’s red-light camera program has reduced the number of violations at monitored intersections by more than 66 percent each month and taken in more than $37 million in fines since its inception seven years ago, Metropolitan Police officials said yesterday.

“More and more people appear to be getting the message about the dangers of red-light running,” Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.

Police statistics show that from August 1999 — when officials began installing cameras at 49 intersections throughout the city — infractions at the intersections have fallen from 38,000 per month to fewer than 14,000 per month, a decrease of 66.2 percent.

From 1999 through June of this year, officials had mailed 609,024 notices of infraction to red-light runners. More than 422,500 citations had been paid, resulting in $37.1 million in fines collected by the District.

“These programs are really having a positive effect on the communities where people want to feel that their children can go out, friends can go out, they can go out and walk the streets in safety,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said.

Officials discussed the statistics at a press conference marking National Stop on Red Week, an eight-year-old national awareness campaign sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Trauma Society.

National Stop on Red Week is held during the first full week of August, which is historically the most fatal month for crashes caused by red-light running. In 2004, officials said roughly 200 of the estimated 1,000 fatal crashes each year occurred in August.

“More people are on vacation, more people are out with kids,” said Jeff Agnew, a spokesman for the District-based National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, a primary supporter of Stop on Red Week. “It’s a huge issue.”

In Montgomery County — one of 21 Maryland counties and cities that operate red-light cameras but the only one at yesterday’s event — police said an average of 8,000 citations are given each month for infractions at the county’s 40 monitored intersections.

Capt. Thomas C. Didone, director of the Montgomery County Police Department’s special operations division, said officials do not have data on how the cameras have affected red-light infractions because the county has switched vendors and technologies since the program began five years ago.

Still, he said that the number of red-light violations has been reduced and that the number of citations has increased as a result of the cameras. Roughly 75 percent of pictures taken by the cameras result in a citation, Capt. Didone said.

Officials in Virginia last year allowed a 10-year red light camera pilot program to expire after critics said the cameras were money-making devices that invaded privacy.

Six localities in Northern Virginia used red-light cameras, and some delegates said they plan to introduce during next year’s legislative session a measure allowing the devices.

nAmy Doolittle contributed to this report.

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