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Red Light Camera Plans Advancing in Lower Merion

Other municipalities with the cameras have experienced mixed effects on accident frequency.

Lower Merion’s police superintendent on Wednesday described a potential red light camera system that would largely pay for itself, part of the reason several Board of Commissioners members favored the idea.

Superintendent Michael McGrath told commissioners a new bill passed by the state legislature this year allows municipalities of 20,000 people or more to install cameras at certain intersections for the purpose of policing red-light runners.

A contractor would operate the cameras, the township would process the tickets, and the revenue from the tickets is meant to cover the cost of the program, with some left over to send to the state for redistribution through transportation grants.

The prospect was attractive to several commissioners.

“If there is minimal to no capital cost to the township,” said Commissioner Scott Zelov, “then it seems to me we should continue to learn more about this.”

Commissioner Cheryl Gelber said several of her constituents have contacted her to support going ahead with the program.

McGrath said cameras would be allowed only for enforcement of intersection infractions, not for any other type of surveillance.

“It’s an intrusion … but I think it’s a narrow one,” Commissioner Brian Gordon said, “and for a good cause.”

Since Philadelphia installed red-light cameras, the superintendent said, it has reported a 25 percent decrease at those intersections in “deadly right-angle crashes”, or “T-bone” accidents. However, the change also brought a 15 percent increase in rear-end crashes at those intersections, presumably from cars being struck from behind after stopping in time for red lights.

The standard fine is $100, though the township would have discretion to change the amount, McGrath said. An offense would carry no points on the driver’s license.

Likely 12 to 15 intersections would have cameras installed if the program went forward. Intersections are selected, with PennDOT’s approval, according to the rate of accidents there, not the volume of traffic, the superintendent said.

Commissioner George Manos asked McGrath, “What comes next here?” The superintendent replied that he would direct the traffic safety unit to get further information from potential vendors.

Do you like the idea of red light cameras in Lower Merion? Tell us in the comments.

Eric Campbell October 05, 2012 at 03:02 AM
From Jeffrey Dorfman: "There are two sides to every coin. One is that it really does help stop "some" of the red light runners. Second, if a car stops at a yellow light whether to avoid going through a red light or for some other reason, ie: pedestrian in intersection, and gets hit in the rear, that driver should be charged with at least tailgating and/or driving to fast for conditions. Look around you. Everywhere most vehicles are tailgating. That is a bigger problem than sometimes, running a red light. Now there is the other side that shows a car being forced to stop or slow down at a yellow light partially into the intersection and gets snapped by the camera. It really isn't cost effective to take off from work and try to explain to a judge who wasn't there how that situation came about. I know a number of my co-workers who were trapped on Roosevelt Blvd. in that scenario and was fined $100. There is almost no way to defend yourself from that. Neither side can prove what happened other than the camera caught a car in the intersection when the light was red. And yes, sometimes, it really is safer to continue through the intersection on the yellow light (and it is legal too) than have a forced accident. The law currently states you may legally transverse through an intersection on a yellow signal. If the light turns red while the car is still in the intersection, the driver is still operating the car legally. Don't go into an intersection if it's red already. Bad move."
Adrian Seltzer October 05, 2012 at 06:44 AM
Expensive without enough positive results. Do we need another bureaucracy? How about spending that money on timing the lights, than people wouldn't be racing to make them. All the stop and go wastes time and gas. Oh and if the car is registered to you, you get the ticket, even if you weren't driving.
michael October 05, 2012 at 09:50 AM
We need the red light cameras. Spend a little time on Montgomery or Lancaster Aves. I dare you. The light will start to change and these idiots have plenty of time to stop, but they are so self involved that they just blow thru it. I have seen it right in front of the municipal building - I have already gotten the walk sign and had some ahole fly up to the light and stop on the crosswalk - and guess what - they where on thier phone! There is very little concern for pedestrians in this town. One day someone walking will be killed by some idiot in a hurry,
Adrian Seltzer October 05, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I didn't know we didn't have a police dept in LM. Don't they do traffic? Spend the money on another officer. The people driving badly should get the ticket, not the person who owns the car.
Linux Guy April 23, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Please note that with proper engineering, there is no need for red-light cameras. If you set an 85th percentile free-flowing speed limit, extend the yellow duration, have a decent-length all-red interval, and use sensors to keep an all-red, the problems go away. Also, note that the National Motorists Association has a ticket challenge. If a municipality works with the NMA and the problems fail to cease, the municipality will be awarded $10,000 for improvements. Why is none of this being mentioned or investigated? It seems like for some reason it was decided these cameras would go in no matter what. Why?

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