By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen Police Department Chief Dennis Baldwin credits red light cameras for an overall citywide 10 percent drop in the number of traffic accidents since the program first went online in 2008.
Baldwin said he could not directly tie the drop to the program, which photographs drivers as they run red lights at five of the busier intersections in Killeen. But the red light cameras have made Killeen drivers more cognizant of traffic safety, he said. In total, the city has seven red light cameras in operation.
"I believe it helps educate drivers behavior and create a safer community," Baldwin said.
The number of rear-end accidents at intersections has dropped precipitously since the program's inception.
Intersections such as Fort Hood Street and Central Texas Expressway used to average about 4.5 rear-end collisions a month. After the cameras became active in 2008, the number dropped to 3.66 per month. Red light intersections averaged 1.07 collisions per month in 2009, and they now average less than one collision per month, Baldwin said.
Baldwin will provide exact numbers Tuesday, when he makes his quarterly report to Killeen City Council.
Through the end of 2009, red light cameras have billed violators $2.94 million. Of that, the city kept $762,000, a little over 25 percent of the total revenue. The state of Texas got a similar amount and Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., the company running the cameras invoiced the city $1.3 million, according to figures provided by KPD.
State law mandates red-light camera revenue only be spent on projects and equipment that address traffic safety, including road construction projects or traffic safety equipment.
All red light revenue spent so far has been dedicated towards new patrol cars or equipment for used in police vehicles.
The city has spent $541,817 on equipment, most notably new patrol vehicles, which make up 57.7 percent of expenditures from red-light camera revenue. The city also spent $162,101 on video recording equipment for patrol vehicles, $62,272 on police radios and graphics.
In the first seven months of the program in 2008, cameras snapped photos of 40,496 violators. During the same period in 2009, 22,964 red light runners were recorded, a 43 percent decline.
"It means your getting more red light compliance, which is good. All that adds up to I believe making the city safer," Baldwin said.
Baldwin said the safety argument in a way parries opinions that the cameras solely exist to create revenue for the city. He did not deny that it is a revenue stream for the city, but as the cameras prevent more drivers from running red lights, revenue declines.
"From my perspective you see various motives and implications, and that's why you have the various opinions about this program," he said.
Baldwin said his number one priority is safety, and from his perspective the cameras are working. Violations have dropped, accidents are down. It's a reason there are no current plans to add more cameras, he said.
"Truthfully, I wish we didn't need such a program," he said.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.