Police will turn on red-light cameras at two Colorado Springs intersections Tuesday, though they’ll only issue warnings for the first month, city officials say.
Two more intersections will be added in coming months as the city’s second attempt at using cameras to catch red-light runners gets underway after more than a year’s preparation.
The cameras, touted as a safety measure after last year’s record 48 traffic fatalities in the city, remain controversial, with residents saying they invade their privacy and are a way for the city to generate revenue through fines.
The first two red-light cameras to go into operation are at the eastbound approach to Platte Avenue and Chelton Road and the westbound approach at Briargate Boulevard and Lexington Drive, city spokeswoman Kim Melchor said in a release. The northbound approach at Academy Boulevard and North Carefree Circle and the southbound approach at Academy and Dublin boulevards will follow later this spring.
“There will be a 30-day public education and warning period as each intersection goes online,” the release said.
Beginning May 9, those caught on camera running red lights will be sent a ticket, the release said. Each intersection is marked to warn motorists that the cameras are present and live.
The program is a few months late in launching. Former Police Chief Pete Carey previously told the City Council the cameras would be working by last fall, telling them council members they should be prepared for complaints.
The warning proved prophetic: at public meetings hosted by police and other city officials, strong resistance was voiced, with many people reminding police that the cameras had been tried and discontinued as ineffective.
Cameras were installed at four intersections in late 2010, but removed the next year. Data showed they did little to reduce crashes and weren’t worth the two full-time officers and half-time sergeant assigned to monitor them, Carey said at the time.
Carey had since reconsidered, saying the cameras hadn’t been given enough time to prove they could work. The new effort, he said, also will take a different approach.
Instead of ticketing cars for stopping too far into the intersection, the program is aimed at catching drivers who endanger others by not coming to a stop, Carey has said. No tickets will be issued until video has been reviewed.
Opposition to the cameras also has been heard at the statehouse.
A House committee in February rejected what has become an annual attempt to kill off or curb red-light cameras.
Colorado Springs Deputy Police Chief Adrian Vasquez testified against the measure, saying the city should not be cutting back on traffic safety measures after the record fatalities in 2018.
Opponents argue that the cameras cause drivers to stop short on yellow lights, leading to more rear-end crashes, an argument discounted by police who say those crashes are much less dangerous than being hit broadside in an intersection.
Red-light camera tickets will be nonmoving violations with a $75 fine, but no points on a driver’s license, the release said.
Drivers who are cited will have a chance to review photo and video evidence against them and to appeal the ticket.
Six more cameras will be installed in the future, although locations have not been finalized, the release said.