For some, government sponsored traffic surveillance cameras can seem like over-reaching Orwellian nuances, resulting in $50 citations for motorists unsuccessfully attempting to stretch the length of a yellow light before it turns red.
For the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, these traffic violations caught on camera actually put money into the New Hanover County public school system.
On Tuesday City Council members will consider extending the contract of SafeLight cameras, a video surveillance system for vehicles running red lights in the Port City, continuing a joint agreement with New Hanover County to fund the cameras for another year.
The City currently utilizes 13 of these cameras, which have been in place since 2000. According to city officials the cameras average about 22,000 citations a year with the net proceeds from the service (approximately $800,000 annually) being turned over to New Hanover County Schools.
The one-year contract with American Traffic Solutions, based in Scottsdale, Arizona is worth just over $400,000 and would be split between city and county funds.
You can find a chart of where these cameras are located here.
According to Don Bennett, Division Manager of Traffic Engineering for the City of Wilmington, studies on whether the cameras have increased vehicle safety at city intersections is still ongoing, with the last study conducted in 2004. However in that study, which focused on a camera on 23rd and Market streets, Bennett stated there was a 30 to 35 percent decrease in angle-type collisions that usually occur when running red lights.
According to SafeLight, the cameras help communities enforce traffic laws by automatically photographing the license plates of vehicles whose drivers run red lights. The cameras provide 24-hour surveillance and when a violation occurs, the camera records the date, time, speed of the vehicle, the time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, and a photo showing the violation. This information is then passed along to the Wilmington traffic safety department.
City council members will meet to discuss this issue along with other city business at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15 at City Hall. You can find the meeting’s agenda here.
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD