Seeing red over signal runners

Howard: County's success with traffic-signal cameras should be evaluated by others.

October 05, 1999

IT WAS tragic irony: Police and lawmakers were promoting a crackdown on red-light runners in Pasadena when a woman died in an accident four miles away in Glen Burnie -- because someone ran a red light.

Risk-taking drivers seem unaware that they play Russian roulette when they mash the pedal and race through red signals. They seem to think the biggest danger is a traffic ticket and a point on their driver's license.

The death of 72-year-old Doris Minnie Duckworth of Glen Burnie last week painfully reminds us that the costs often are much higher.

The Pasadena event highlighted a state law that took effect Oct. 1. It increases the points -- from one to two -- that can be handed out to a motorist who drives through a red light. That should help.

But Anne Arundel County also should employ cameras at certain intersections, as other jurisdictions in Maryland and elsewhere have done successfully. The cameras snap pictures of the rear of vehicles that enter intersections after signals turn red.

Baltimore and Howard counties and Baltimore City have been pleased with the results. Violations dropped 53 percent at intersections that used the cameras, as drivers become more cautious.

Howard now uses 25 red-light cameras, which police move between dangerous intersections. The camera gives convincing evidence of violations. As with a parking ticket, vehicle owners, not necessarily the drivers, are fined. The program has worked so well that even officers driving patrol cruisers have been caught and fined in Howard.

Anne Arundel has been considering red-light cameras for nearly two years. What's the hesitation? Officials who use only the method of being an eyewitness to violations should be persuaded by the experience of jurisdictions who've tried cameras. Risk-takers are less likely to gamble when a $75 fine is all but guaranteed.

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