Friday, November 16, 2007

"I feel it's a way for the city to make money because it's kind of a trap."

Lufkin Drivers Still Getting Adjusted To Red Light Cameras


by Tashun Chism
KTRE-TV (Lufkin, TX)
Copyright 2007

Despite a 30 day warning period, some East Texans don't think the red light cameras are something drivers will ever get used to.

They believe they have proof that the cameras will do more harm than good.

"I've seen some near accidents already where people almost got rear ended. I personally almost rear ended someone this morning," said Lufkin driver Nathaniel Shaw.

"The light turned yellow and I had just a few feet to go to it. So I went ahead and stopped because of the fear of getting my ticket and there was a car behind me that wasn't stopping and they just came within inches of hitting me," Lufkin resident Jeannie Nash said.

Officials researched the progress of red light cameras in other cities and states before installing them in Lufkin.

"Their accidents would peak until people got used to this. But what it did, all of them have shown, is that the red light accidents went down," said Sgt. David Walker of the Lufkin Police Department.

But the cameras aren't stopping everyone from running red lights at Lufkin's major intersections. Especially the intersection of Copeland and Loop 287. Fatal accidents caused by those types of drivers are the ones officials hope to prevent, even it causes some fenders benders early on.

But some East Texans still aren't convinced, especially about the intersection of Chestnut and Timberland.

"I can guarantee you it does not stay on green when you cross over Timberland it does not stay on green more than three seconds. More than five seconds at the most. Maybe three cars get through then all of a sudden you have to stop," said Shaw.

"I feel it's a way for the city to make money because it's kind of a trap," East Texas driver Bettie Session told us.

"I think they've got it set to trap people. It just goes from green to yellow to red too quick. As a general rule, if you've got people following you, you can't stop on a dime," Nash added.

But the cameras are calibrated according to the stop lights, and TxDOT officials tell us each light typically stays green for at least 8 to 10 seconds.

We staked out the intersection of Chestnut and Timberland and it seemed more like 3 to 5 seconds.

TxDOT officials say that's because the lights all have detectors to improve the flow of traffic.

"What happens is those peak times like when school lets out in the afternoon or in the mornings every approach is loaded so it's real hard to give enough time to each approach. So what you have to do is optimize and try to give enough to each one of them so it at least clears the majority of the traffic out of them," said Herbert Bickley of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Lufkin city officials want drivers to know that the goal of the red light cameras is to increase safety and not revenue.

Each ticket costs $75.

The money from tickets is split three ways: between the city of Lufkin, the state of Texas, and Traffipax.

That leaves the city of Lufkin about $22.50 per ticket.

Lufkin city officials say that money is put back is put right back into funding traffic enforcement.

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