EL PASO — After celebrating the 4th of July and enjoying the fireworks, an unexpected flash ruined the night.
Driving down Socorro Road in her 2005 green Nissan Altima, Cynthia Villela did not think that a right turn on North Loop Drive would result in a $75 citation.
“I stopped at a red light and I did not fully yield on turning right so that cost me a ticket,” Villela said. Three weeks after the incident, Villela was notified by mail that she had to pay a fine for running a red light camera.
The city of El Paso began a red-light enforcement program on October 2006, which issued violation notices to vehicle owners who were captured by a camera running a red light. El Paso officials say that red light cameras are reducing the number of accidents here in the border city since the operation began.
After receiving a citation by mail, the vehicle’s owner is expected to pay a fine of $75. “I don’t think it’s a fair amount, not for the reason I got the ticket,” Villela said. Once the fine is paid off, 50 percent of the revenue goes to the state trauma fund and the other half is to be spent on traffic safety programs.
“National studies have shown a reduction in serious accidents and serious injuries,” said El Paso Police Department Sergeant Jack Matthews who points out that collisions as well as violations have decreased. “Collisions with injuries are down 14 percent where as collisions with serious injuries have gone down 33 percent,” said Matthews. From October 2006 to December 2010 there have been more than 100,000 violation notices generatedhere at intersections with red light cameras.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, other cities in Texas have also shown a decrease in car accidents caused by drivers who run red lights. In Arlington before setting up red light cameras there were an approximately 10 crashes per intersection annually where as after the installation of red light cameras, the number of crashes reduced to about four per intersection.
Intersections where car accidents are more proneto happen are those where red light cameras are being installed. Sgt. Matthews said that an engineering study of the intersections as well as statistics and data are elements that go into the decision of where to put these cameras.
“We have seen some intersections around the city where the accident numbers have gone down,” said Matthews. Some of those include Joe Battle and Montwood and Redd Rd. and Resler. In 2009 there were more than 100 collisions at Joe Battle and Montwood and in 2010 that number decreased to at least 90 collisions. “Red light cameras are having a positive impact making the intersections a lot safer.”
Based on the success of the program, more cameras are waiting to be installed at important intersections of the city. Currently there are 18 intersections with a total of 27 cameras. Matthews’s hopes are to increase the total to about 60 cameras.
Although she received a citationthat cost her $75, Villela said red light cameras are beneficial for the city of El Paso because they help prevent accidents and makes bad drivers think twice before running a red light.
Click here to download TXDOT reports on red-light cameras.