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Panel backs cameras at traffic lights

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Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:16 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Robert Nathan

Killeen Daily Herald

Killeen motorists beware.

An ordinance could be adopted in the coming weeks that would establish a red-light camera system to assist in the enforcement and prosecution of various traffic violations at street intersections.

The city's transportation committee on Tuesday voted to recommend such a program to the City Council to deter motorists from running red lights at some of Killeen's most dangerous intersections.

"The true purpose is a behavioral change," said Capt. Lee Caufield of the Killeen Police Department.

Caufield discussed a growing trend of cities implementing a more stringent measure to reduce red light violations and other traffic violations. Based on his research, he said, such a system could reduce motorists running red lights by 40 percent.

A cost estimate for the program has not been determined, but the program would essentially pay for itself through the revenue collected from traffic citations, officials said. The company the city chooses to set up the program would maintain the red-light cameras.

While giving his presentation at Killeen City Hall, Caufield said 127 accidents were reported over the past 11 months at four U.S. Highway 190 intersections: at East Stan Schlueter, Trimmier Road and Fort Hood Street and Jasper Drive. He estimated this resulted in $250,000 in property damages.

Side impacts are most common in accidents at these intersections, he said, and are considered to be the most dangerous type of collision.

A problem that could result with such a system, he noted, is more sudden stops at intersections with a red-light camera. He said side-impact collisions would be reduced, but there would be an increase in rear-end collisions because of the sudden stops. Most impacts, he said, occur five to 10 seconds after the traffic light turns red.

If approved by the council, some of the intersection lines would have to be repainted, officials said.

In 2003, the Texas Senate approved a bill that authorized cities to impose civil penalties prohibiting a vehicle from entering an intersection on a red light. A city ordinance must be in place, however, that would require compliance and establish penalties and an appeals process.

The bill said the violation is a civil action and would not be reported to the Texas Department of Public Safety and would not appear on a driving record.

The city ordinance would define who is responsible for maintenance of the camera system and how it will be implemented and enforced.

The Texas Department of Transportation would require an amendment of a new maintenance agreement for state- controlled traffic signals.

Caufield warned that there is a proposed Texas House bill designed to stop this process. Two bills were drafted during the 79th legislative session; however, one never got out of committee and the other was killed, he said.

"It seems like although there are House bills being presented as a whole, the Senate and the House (don't) seem to be ready to approach any kind of removal of this process," Caufield said.

He said some states are considering moving the violation from a civil issue to a traffic issue because many of the red-light systems are capable of providing enough facial identification to identify the motorist.

Deputy City Attorney Traci Briggs said that if the bill is reintroduced and passed, the program would be dead, unless the program was changed to carry a higher penalty.

Contact Robert Nathan at ranathan@kdhnews.com

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