Traffic cam sales pitch heard

Friday, November 28, 2008

Speeding drivers and motorists who run red lights in Lewisburg might be getting tickets in the mail starting sometime next year if the City Council accepts the sales pitch it heard from an Arizona company this month.

Digital cameras and a radar gun in weather tight, bullet proof cabinets mounted on poles near selected intersections would capture images of and clock violators, two salesmen said. Police checking proposed tickets on a computer connection would authorize their issuance.

Scofflaws who don't pay civil penalties could be turned over to a collection agency, according to Redflex Traffic Systems' sales and marketing chiefs who explained the Phoenix-based business' proposition during a non-voting Council workshop on Tuesday.

"In a town this size, we'd like to do speed and red light" enforcement, said Craig Primiani, the eastern regional sales director at Redflex's office in Milton, Mass.

Redflex would install and operate its system at no cost to the city, Primiani said. Peter Fogarassy, a marketing director with Redflex, said the company would keep a percentage of the payments by offenders.

Tennessee limits such tickets to $50. The amount that might be kept by Redflex mentioned Tuesday was $40, but it's to be negotiated for a contract, the salesmen said.

Primiani and Fogarassy emphasized the system changes driver behavior, reduces traffic crashes and related injuries.

"Do we have a problem with wrecks at intersections?" Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. asked.

Councilwoman Quinn Brandon suggested Police Chief Chuck Forbis be asked for information and, after about an hour of discussion, Councilman Phil Sanders said they'd heard enough to fuel a more public discussion during a voting session of the Council.

Councilman Robin Minor didn't attend the non-voting workshop in the City Hall conference room this week, but he heard Primiani and Fogarassy explain the system to city administrators earlier this month.

Minor advocates traffic lights for the intersection where Rock Crusher Road meets North Fifth Avenue at Ellington Parkway, but the Tennessee Department of Transportation has replied there's insufficient traffic flow there to warrant red lights.

Redflex also has mobile cameras and radar guns that could be posted at different locations, Primiani and Fogarassy said.

Signs are typically posted to warn motorists about radar enforced speed limits and Redflex would have signs telling drivers about cameras at intersections controlled by traffic signals.

Clarksville, Morristown, Oak Ridge, Kingsport, Johnson City, Knoxville, Jonesboro and Mt. Carmel are Tennessee cities with Redflex systems, Fogarassy said.

Redflex has 90 percent of the market for such systems, he said.

Murfreesboro has a similar system and the police chief there told his city councilmen recently that 6,600 tickets were issued in the first 90 days of cameras at six intersections, according to the daily newspaper there.

The weekly newspaper in Murfreesboro reported that city's council decided in September last year to have tickets issued based on digital photos. By March, the system was being installed.

Less than two thirds of some $330,000 in fines had been collected during the first three months of operation, the daily reported. However side-impact crashed were down by almost nine percent.

Aside from increased revenue from tickets, Fogarassy said Lewisburg could realize lower costs for police, fire and rescue responses to wrecks because drivers' behavior would improve.

For more on the proposal, see next Wednesday's edition of the Marshall County Tribune.