By on October 29, 2010

Albemarle County, Virginia plans this week to install its first red light camera system, ostensibly to reduce accidents caused by red light running. County documents show that at one of the two intersection approaches selected, there has not been a single accident caused by red light running in the past three years.

The county applied to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) earlier this year for permission to allow Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia to install and operate a pair of cameras at the intersection of US 29 and Rio Road. The east bound approach at Rio Road had no reported angle collisions caused by red light running violations between 2006 and 2009, according to county records. The other monitored approach, US 29 southbound, did have related crashes. The annual crash total for the type of accidents that the photo enforcement system might address is 1.8 per year.

While not having a red light running crash problem, the location reported 68 percent of its accidents (121 out of 177 in three years) were rear end collisions. A 2007 VDOT report concluded that use of red light cameras increased the number of rear end collisions by an average of 42 percent in Northern Virginia. That means if the system worked perfectly, there would be 1.8 fewer angle collisions, but 17 more rear end collisions each year.

“We acknowledge VDOT’s comment that accidents most commonly associated with red light running are angle crashes and as such traffic signal enforcement may not help to reduce the majority of the crashes at this particular intersection; however, this is only one of the factors to be considered in the evaluation,” the county’s application admitted. “As provided in the sections that follow, our assessment and conclusions also factor in the violation volumes.”

The two selected approaches proved to be the most lucrative for citation issuance. The intersection is one of the busiest in the area with an average of 71,549 vehicles — mostly non-residents — passing through each day. During the test, the system would have generated $7,600 worth of tickets in a 12-hour period — about $5.5 million per year if the violation rate held constant.

“Both of these approaches pose a threat to the safety of the motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians who use this densely developed corridor now and in the future,” the county asserted.

The data show in three years, there were zero bicycle accidents reported and a single pedestrian incident. The report also lists yellow signal timing for the intersections that may prove to be too short for the conditions. At Rio Road, the yellow lasts 4.0 seconds for traffic facing a speed limit of 35 MPH. At US-29, however, the speed limit is 10 MPH faster and the intersection requires more time to traverse because it is 60 feet longer. Longer yellows are needed when speeds are faster and distances are greater, but US-29 is set at just 4.0 seconds, below even the short timings recommended by the Institute of Transportation Engineers guidelines.

A copy of the application is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Photo Enforcement Engineering Safety Analysis (Albemarle County, Virginia, 7/13/2010)


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9 Comments on “Virginia: Red Light Camera Installed at Accident-Free Location...”

  • avatar
    john ezell

    Typical revenur collection tactics being employed by money hungry beaureocrats (sic)!

  • avatar

    Nobody ever installs red light cameras out of goodness of their hearts.

    Intersections that have an unusually high fatality rate are just poorly engineered. The only safety-related reason to install a camera is to service an intersection that is unfavorably located and can’t easily be reengineered. Then, of course, given that it’s a deterrent, you should post huge signs saying that the intersection is a) monitored and b) dangerous. And, of course, long yellow times, etc. etc.

    Put it on the ballot, people. Only way to do it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m familiar with the intersection in question. It carries a lot of long distance traffic past a mess of strip malls and local shoppers.
      Without a Rt. 29 bypass north of Charlottesville, it probably meets your definition of unfavorably located and can’t easily be reengineered.
      I agree that use of red-light and speed cameras should be well-signed.

  • avatar

    Um, yea, I am a citizen, not a domesticated animal.  This is the blatant abuse of motorists for the sake of filling the coffers of local municipalities.  My one sad regret is that eventually this behavior by government in at all levels will eventually lead to violence when some people can’t take it anymore.  The people of the area should rise up in uproar, before things get worse.  I know I would.  It’s enough to be harassed by bad drivers, but bad government as well?

  • avatar

    I drive through this intersection a couple of times a month on round trips from northern Virginia to UVA. I’ve even seen the aftermath of rear-end accidents right there. The solution to the problem is to lengthen the yellow light.  Oh, wait . . . . that would solve the problem of people getting rear ended. The traffic camera solves the problem of Albemarle County needing another way to tax UVA students and their parents when they visit.  On a road like 29 (local name: Seminole Trail — careful with that spelling) a large majority of people getting ticketed would be from out of town so the county can raise money without really annoying locals.

  • avatar

    When my wife fought her red light ticket, I got documents from our small city showing how ATS evaluates intersections for red light cameras. The two intersections chosen for cameras had between them only 3 accidents over the two years prior. None was related to red light running.
    However, the number of red light violations, almost all of which were right turns, was very high. ATS estimated that the revenue to the city from fines would be about $3 million per year, which it has been.
    Based on these figures, our mayor announced that the city would put in red light cameras for “safety first, and revenue second.” Since that time, the city has made millions in fines. So revenue has definitely been enhanced.
    What about safety? Violations have not decreased. So the cameras have had no deterrent effect. But accidents have increased. Mainly by residents — who know about the cameras — slamming on their brakes as soon as the light turns yellow.
    Scam is right. The fine of $100 set forth in the vehicle code was not enough to make it worthwhile, so they add a “surcharge” of $336. Some of the money even goes to the court that tries the case.
    Old-fashioned graft and corruption in new clothes. Disgusting.

  • avatar

    That camera makes a tempting target for a good old fashioned slingshot.
    Just throwing that out there…

  • avatar

    I grew up in Albemarle County Virginia. The Charlottesville City Police have to fight it out with the Albemarle County Police, the Virginia State Troopers, the UVA Police Department, and the Sheriffs’ Departments for your commuting revenue. It made me the cynical, leftist hating man I am today. There was a cop in the Albemarle County cartel named Weathersby. He was caught miscalibrating police speed measuring equipment to increase citations. He had to be publicly fired and all of his pending cases had to be thrown out as he was no longer considered a reliable witness. A couple years later, I saw that SOB in uniform, the Police department having quietly hired him back after the public furor died down. This is exactly the sort of behavior I would expect from them. Incidentally, the reason all the north-south corridor traffic has to go through that light is because the limousine liberals who own land west of town have blocked construction of a much-needed bypass for decades. Instead they use tax dollars to buy up land so ‘poor\'(working middle class) people can’t build houses in their views. The earth should open and swallow the entire region, preferably after my parents get around to moving to a beach house in the Carolinas.

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