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Experts Debate Effectiveness Of Red-Light Cameras

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RALEIGH, N.C. — While the debate over red-light cameras rages on, Raleigh has turned on its new system. The city handed out 100 warnings over a three-week trial period.

Along with some North Carolina State researchers, Joe Milazzo, executive director of the Regional Transportation Alliance, studied red-light camera systems around the state, the country and the world.

"Everything has room for improvement. We're happy to be part of that process," Milazzo said.

When asked if cities are in the business of shortening the yellow caution time to increase profits, Milazzo said he has not seen that at all. In states that do not have a standard, it could actually be legal to shorten the yellow cycle. North Carolina law requires a four-second minimum yellow caution time.

There is also some question as to whether red-light cameras really reduce the number of crashes?

"It looks like there's going to be some successes for them, but [there are] legitimately some concerns about increases in rear-end collisions as well until the people get used to that behavior, so for now, the jury is still out," Milazzo said.

Experts said one way around red-light cameras is a roundabout. Milazzo said sometimes engineering solutions like a roundabout work better than cameras. Milazzo's research also covered people's concerns about "Big Brother" watching.

"The law and the precedents show you don't have the right to privacy on the highway system, so the net result from that standpoint is the cameras are going to be here to stay," he said.

Raleigh's red-light cameras are located at Dawson and South streets, and at Six Forks Road and Rowan Street. Several more cameras will be added to the system next month. Violators in Raleigh face $50 fines for running red lights that have the cameras.

After the first year of red-light cameras in Charlotte, officials said the city had 66 fewer crashes, which saved an estimated $5 million in crash-related costs like emergency response. Plus, the cameras are a money-maker for the city, netting almost $1.4 million from tickets in the first year.


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