Everett will install red-light cameras

EVERETT — Add Everett to the list of cities turning to video cameras to enforce traffic safety laws.

Later this summer, cameras will be installed at four accident-prone intersections and one school zone in Everett, issuing tickets starting at $124 each.

City officials stress the program, which they expect to decrease the number of injury accidents at intersections and gross as much as $1 million in fines during the first year, was designed to promote safety, not to generate revenue.

“We wanted to really make sure it would fly as a safety program,” said Ryan Sass, Everett’s city engineer.

Three years ago, Sass and the Everett Police Department began taking a closer look at red-light cameras after a state law enabled cities to use them.

The city selected camera locations based on years of injury collision data and records of red-light traffic violations.

Red-light runners caught on camera, including those who fail to make a complete stop while making right turns, can expect a $124 ticket in the mail. Speeding in the school zone will cost a minimum of $189 and will climb depending on speed. Going 35 mph over the speed limit in a school zone carries a $784 fine.

Because the cameras cannot legally take images of a driver’s face, violations are treated similarly to parking tickets, not moving violations that are placed on a driver’s record. The ticket will be mailed to a car’s registered owner after the video is reviewed by the company and an Everett police officer.

On Wednesday, the council voted 6-0 on a $2 million, five-year contract with Advanced Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., to install, operate and maintain seven traffic cameras. The company will be paid a flat fee, not based on the number of tickets issued. The company cannot charge the city more than it collects in fines, according to the agreement.

Six cameras will initially go up at approaches to four intersections stretching from Evergreen Way and Fourth Avenue W. in the south to Pacific and Rucker avenues in the north. The other intersections are Evergreen Way at Madison Street and Evergreen Way at Casino Road.

One camera will be mounted near Horizon Elementary School on W. Casino Road. Since 2006, that busy stretch of road has had three of four fatal pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the city.

The ticket will include a link to a Web site that will allow the vehicle’s owner to go online to view the alleged violation.

A computer will be set up at police headquarters for those without Internet access.

All together, officials expect the cameras to issue 40 to 50 tickets a day initially, generating between $750,000 and $1 million in revenue during the first year.

After expenses, not including staff time, that will leave the city with an estimated $350,000 to $600,000. Instead of going to the general fund, which can pay for employee salaries, the money will go to a special roads fund to pay for traffic safety improvements, such as sidewalks and crosswalks, Sass said.

Based on the experiences of other cities, Sass said Everett can expect to see the number of red-light-related accidents drop by 30 percent. While some studies suggest the number of rear-end collisions actually increase slightly after cities install red-light cameras, the number of more dangerous types of accidents such T-bone collisions typically decrease, Sass said.

City Councilman Mark Olson, an Everett attorney who specializes in personal injury cases, questioned how useful the cameras will be, saying red-light cameras will do nothing to deter inattentive drivers.

While he voted in favor of the contract, Olson also said he has philosophical concerns over the proliferation of government cameras in society.

Video surveillance cameras are a fact of life, Councilman Ron Gipson said.

“You’re going to be on camera,” he said. “You better get used to it.”

David Chircop: 425-339-3429, dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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