SLPD wants to expand red light camera program
By Betsy Dolan
After reviewing proposed modifications to the red light camera program, the Sugar Land Police Department has concluded that most of the changes aren’t needed and wants to expand the program.
The police department recommendations were presented at a Sugar Land City Council workshop March 18. The recommendations were in response to the final report from the citizen-led Traffic Safety Task Force.
The task force had asked the City to look at four changes to the program including: the addition of one-second to the yellow light time; evaluating signage to better inform drivers; review current fine assessment and to review the current wording in the “notice of violation” to make sure it is accurate and non-threatening.
Police Chief Douglas Brinkley told the council that an independent traffic engineering study by Kimley-Horn showed no need to increase yellow light times or to add additional signage to the intersections. A Kimley-Horn engineer said the City of Sugar Land exceeds the minimum standards recommended by the Institute of Transportation Engineers for both categories.
In addition, the $75.00 fine amount is in line with other Texas cities with red light camera programs and adheres to the state statute, Brinkley said.
The police department also concluded that state law doesn’t differentiate between red light running and making a right turn on red–both are considered moving violations and are subject to the $75.00 fine. The Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras had been pushing for a reduced fine for drivers who make a right turn on red.
The police department was also asked to look into the feasibility of vehicular countdown timers which Kimley-Horn found to be a distraction to drivers.
The only change the police department does support, involves the wording on red light camera tickets which state that non-payment “could” result in a registration hold. The City currently doesn’t put registration holds on violators but Brinkley would like the City to begin pursuing the stricter penalty and possibly using a collection agency to go after violators.
Councilman Steve Porter asked Brinkley if the decrease in the collection rate was a result of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras’ stance that paying the fine was voluntary.
“Since the attention from the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras we have seen a substantial collection rate decrease”, Brinkley said. “Whether that is cause and effect, we aren’t sure.”
Porter also asked whether car owners will be held liable even if someone else was driving their car at the time of the violation. Brinkley said owners can challenge a citation and a judge can get involved if necessary to resolve the issue.
But H. F. Van Der Grinten (Captain Van) with the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras, disputes that.
“There is no mechanism provided for relieving a registered vehicle owner of liability except providing proof that the vehicle was sold, leased or stolen at the time of the violation”, Van Der Grinten stated in an email to the “Star”.
The police department plans to return to the City Council with a resolution to adopt the registration hold. They also want to initiate a plan to consider other locations where the City can use red light cameras.
Sugar Land currently has red light cameras at four intersections: U.S. 59 and State Highway 6; U.S. 90A and Dairy Ashford; West Airport and Eldridge and Lexington and State Highway 6.
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