Are Red Light Cams Effective?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - It's been nearly five months since the cameras at traffic lights started going up around Knoxville.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford shows you how much success the program is having and how much money the city is getting from folks who are running red lights.

Police say cars typically fly through busy intersections like this one at Cumberland and Alcoa, but seven cameras planted across Knoxville have caught thousands of drivers running red lights.

"A sensor that's in the roadway that's activated once a traffic signal turns red," says Captain G.R. Catlett.

That signal triggers the red-light video cameras to start recording.

"As you can tell that's a clear image," Knoxville Police Captain G.R. Catlett reviews red-light violations like this one "The target in question is clearly pulled out into the intersection and the light's still showing a red sequence."

Since the first camera went up in April, more than 17,000 incidents have been recorded and more than 11,000 notices have been mailed to violators.

Bringing in more than $22,000 to Knoxville's general fund, but more importantly, "We've noticed a significant decrease in motor vehicle crashed of an angle-nature," Capt. Catlett says.

The number of angle crashes has decreased 36% from 2005 to 2006 and the total number of crashes has gone down 14% at the camera intersections.

"If nothing else, we can say the crash rate is being reduced," Catlett says.

Police say the cameras are strategically placed at busy, accident-prone intersections like this one on Henley Street and Cumberland Avenue, and since they've been here, drivers are slowing down.

"It is working because people are paying more attention to traffic signals and they're more cautious around intersections," says Catlett.

But some speculate that the cameras actually increase collisions with sudden stopping.

"I can tell you from first hand knowledge, reviewing the accident reports myself, that there is not one single rear-end crash at a camera intersection that's been attributed to the cameras," Catlett says with each snapshot, these cameras are saving lives.

"We're educating the public and changing driving habits $50 at a time," Catlett says.

KPD is contracted for 15 cameras total.

The department is in the process of getting more installed.

Police say the next cameras going on-line are at the Merchants and Clinton Highway intersection.

Future locations include Broadway and 640, and more on Kingston Pike and Papermill Drive.