Issues remain over current use of red light cameras in Sugar Land

By LeaAnne Klentzman

New Territory resident and Red Light Camera activist takes issue with the City of Sugar Land and its current use of photo enforcement cameras in the city.

According to  H. F. Van Der Grinten, Founder of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras the use of red light photo enforcement is systematically unfair and penalizes the driving public if they fail to come to a complete stop before making a right turn on a red signal.   Van Der Grinten is not opposed to all functions of red light cameras, just as they are presently being used.  One specific issue Van Der Grinten has with Red Light Cameras (RLC) is “short yellow” cycles.  The Sugar Land light in question was at an intersection on the north end of the city, at West Airport and Eldridge Road.  According to the statistics at www.houstoncoalition.net, the yellow light at that intersection is only yellow for 3.5 seconds, however, the TxDot recommendation minimum requirement is 4.9 seconds.

Thus, since April 2010 he has been trying to affect that change. He was successful and that light has been modified.  In June 2011, Van Der Grinten met with Sugar Land Mayor Jimmy Thompson and discussed the issue and provided him with the research he had collected.  According to Van Der Grinten, the Mayor was receptive but the City Manager has turned down his proposals.

Again in November 23, 2011, Van Der Grinten contacted the Mayor and City Council with his two recommendations.  Van Der Grinten’s proposals to Council and the Mayor are for the City Council to “take action to protect the driving public from arbitrary and improper red-light photo enforcement.”  His proposals were summarily and arbitrarily rejected out-of-hand by the City Manager’s Office according to Van Der Grinten.  He went on to say, “If equitable modification is impossible, then the entire red light camera program should be terminated.”

Police spokesman Doug Adolph said, “ Staff has met with Mr. Van Der Grinten on several occasions.  Those meeting started over four years ago, before the cameras were implemented.”  He said Van Der Grinten has asked for two modifications to the Sugar Land Red Light Camera system. Those modifications were for additional warning signs and lane markers  to be posted at the intersections where cameras were installed.  Adolph said the city did the engineering and legal research and determined that placement of a second set of warning signs was feasible.  “To this day, we have two sets of warning signs at each monitored intersection,” said Adolph.

In June of this year, again, Mr. Van Der Grinten, approached City Council and the Mayor asking that time be added to the length of a yellow light and a sliding fee scale be established based on the severity of the red light violation, said Adolph.

The City reportedly responded after researching his ideas that the current timing of the yellow light is based on state law and ITE engineering calculations.  “From a liability perspective, it makes little sense to vary from established engineering standards.  From a practical perspective, adding one second to each approach of a red light camera intersection decreases the number of vehicles that can proceed through an intersection in an hour.  On timed intersections, such as Highway 6,

you can’t change the timing of two intersections without affecting the timing of all the intersections on Highway 6, “ said Adolph.

Adolph said the City considered the concept of a sliding scale of violation fees, but in the end, one cannot make the assumption that a vehicle proceeding through a red light one second after the signal has changed; is less dangerous than a vehicle proceeding through a red light 2 seconds after the signal change.  In the end explained Adolph, “Running a red light is simply running a red light.  State law currently sets the fee for these violations at $75.

As part of his ongoing efforts,  H. F. Van Der Grinten has a proposal before the Texas House of Representatives Transportation Committee to amend the Transportation Code Chapter 707, which will prohibit the practice of shortening amber periods in order to increase revenue.

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