By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
After test-driving cameras at red lights for one day, Killeen has statistics to determine where to park them.
Killeen Police Department Capt. Lee Caufield presented statistics to the City Council during its workshop Tuesday. The red-light cameras were placed at seven of Killeen's busiest intersections. The statistics were gathered after cameras were placed at these intersections for one day.
"These are intersections that meet the criteria," Caufield told the council.
The intersection of Trimmier Road and Lowes Boulevard ranked No. 1 for accidents and injuries and No. 2 for red-light violations. It is currently considered a "pending" intersection because Redflex Traffic Systems, the company the city contracted with, has not reviewed it to approve it yet.
Redflex has reviewed and approved the intersection of Fort Hood Street and Central Texas Expressway, which ranks No. 1 for red-light violations and No. 5 (of 7) for accidents.
Caufield said he hopes installation will begin within 30 days.
"It's not something you're going to do in a day," Caufield said in an interview Wednesday.
After several weeks of installation, signs will be put up at each intersection warning drivers there are red-light cameras. Once the cameras are in operation, drivers will be issued warnings for the first 30 days.
In a workshop on Aug. 22, the council gave unanimous consensus to enter a five-year, tiered payment contract with Redflex.
Some council members wanted to sign a shorter contract for a trial period and to wait and see if the state Legislature would make the cameras illegal in a future session. Gwyne Miller, Redflex Texas regional sales representative, said at that workshop that the contract will be nullified if the Legislature makes red-light cameras illegal.
She also said that because the program is violator-funded, it takes about five years for the company to earn a return on its investment for the equipment.
The council was initially reluctant to award the contract.
Caufield received a 5-1 thumbs up from the council at the Aug. 7 workshop to proceed with drafting an ordinance and arranging an agreement with Redflex.
Caufield pushed for the passage in August with a sense of urgency because more restrictive state legislation – Senate Bill 1119 – was scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1.
Because Killeen signed a contract before Sept. 1, the city will not have to adhere to several changes in the new legislation, including the way it pays Redflex.
SB 1119 does not allow a city to pay the contracted company a specific amount or percentage per citation issued; rather, a flat fee is required under the new statute.
SB 1119 also set a maximum fine of $75 per citation with a $25 late fee. Half the money collected by the state will go into a regional trauma account. Davis said the state collects its money after the city recoups the expenses for the cameras. After paying Redflex, Killeen expects to receive about $7 per citation.
By signing a contract before Sept. 1, Killeen also gets to skip the process of an official traffic engineering study, which would have to be reviewed by a citizen advisory committee before going to the City Council.
At its Aug. 14 meeting, the council voted 4-3 in favor of a resolution for the city manager to enter into a contract with Redflex for a photographic enforcement system – cameras that take pictures of vehicles that go through intersections after traffic signals turn red. Council members Billy Workman, Juan Rivera and Kenny Wells voted against the resolution.
The council then voted 6-0 in favor of the ordinance that governs the red-light camera system because it had already authorized the city manager to enter an agreement with Redflex, and City Attorney Kathy Davis said it would put the city in an awkward position to enter a contract for services with no ordinance making it legal.
At that meeting, the dissenting council members asked questions about the cost to the city. Caufield said taxpayer money would not be used to support this program.
He said the camera does not count it as a red-light run unless the driver enters the intersection during the red light. Caufield also noted that there is a review process. He said the overall goal is to get drivers in the mind-set to not drive through intersections during red lights.
The camera takes a picture of a vehicle as it approaches the intersection, as it is going through the intersection and after it is through the intersection. The final photograph shows the license plate so a citation can be sent to the vehicle's owner.
At an Aug. 7 workshop, Caufield delivered a presentation about the system. Caufield listed the three intersections in Killeen with the most accidents caused by drivers running red lights.
The intersection of East Central Texas Expressway and East Stan Schlueter Loop had the most accidents in 2006 with 58 and the most to date in August 2007 with 29. Second was East Central Texas Expressway and South W.S. Young Drive with 37 accidents in 2006 and 28 to date. Fort Hood Street and Business Highway 190 was third with 24 accidents in 2006 and 23 to date.
He also cited statistics from Plano, where the city installed red-light cameras at five intersections.
From November 2006 to February 2007, there was a 57 percent decrease in accidents at those five intersections. Additionally, there was an 80 percent decrease in accidents overall.