Camera doesn't lie, Bel Air police chief says about Kenmore right turn on red tickets

Drivers failing to make a complete stop before turning right at a major intersection near Bel Air High School have been getting hit with tickets from the camera installed there at the rate of nearly 20 a month this year.

Bel Air Police Chief Leo Matrangola says the infractions logged by the camera have been legitimate, despite complaints to the contrary from some drivers who have been caught by the camera, including some students, according to e-mails received by The Aegis.

There are four intersections in Bel Air with red light ticket cameras, including Route 24 at Baltimore Pike, Churchville Road at Main Street, Route 24 at Boulton Street and Baltimore Pike at Kenmore Avenue, the latter less than a block from the high school. Bel Air is the only place in Harford County that has a red light camera enforcement program.

Turning right on a red light from Baltimore Pike into Kenmore Avenue is permitted, and the camera system is not mistakenly causing drivers to receive tickets who haven't broken the law, Matrangola said.

Although the intersection allows for a right turn to be made on a red light, Matrangola wrote in an e-mail that many drivers still fail to come to complete stop, which is why the camera is flagging them.

From Jan. 1 through Aug. 1 of this year, 139 citations were issued for the right turn lane at the Kenmore intersection, according to Matrangola. Baltimore Pike is one-way east at South Bond Street and Kenmore, both of which are one-way south.

"The vehicles receiving citations generally slow down to about 5-10 mph and make the [right] turn," he said. "This is unacceptable and very dangerous for several reasons."

The crosswalks at the intersection are used frequently by students, Matrangola noted.

Technically, a citation can be issued if a vehicle's wheels do not stop moving before proceeding past the crosswalk, the police chief explained.

At the Kenmore Avenue light, he added, they only issue tickets to drivers who don't come to a complete stop, even if motorists stop their vehicles with their front wheels in the crosswalk, which should typically still trigger the camera. He said the design of the intersection has precluded issuing of citations in the latter instance.

In making a complete stop, Matrangola said, a driver should feel a shift of weight in the vehicle from the front to the rear before entering into the intersection and should have enough time to look in both directions before making a right turn.

As with all of the red light cameras, Matrangola added, the camera will only take a photograph of a vehicle if it enters the intersection after the light has turned red. A second photograph is then taken as the vehicle goes through the intersection.

Drivers who receive tickets can view the recorded video clip of the violation online at a web address provided on the citation or at the Bel Air Police Department, according to Matrangola.

In 2011, 5,551 red light camera violation citations were issued in Bel Air, down from 6,240 in 2010, according to Matrangola.

On a fiscal year basis, the net revenue, minus direct expenses, from red light camera citations was $273,500 for 2012 and $314,200 for 2011, according to town Finance Director Lisa Moody.

She added that the amounts do not include indirect costs, such as personnel time and benefits to manage the program internally. The town contracts with a third party to operate the camera system and issue the citations, as do most, if not all, jurisdictions who use the cameras.

The benefit of the red light cameras is a reduction of accidents at those intersections, according to Matrangola.

At the Route 24 and Baltimore Pike intersection – where a camera system has operated the longest in town, Matrangola wrote, there were 17.6 property damage accidents per year over a three-year period before the lights were installed.

Since the camera was installed, there have been 5.9 accidents per year, he added.

As for personal injury accidents, Matrangola wrote, there were seven per year prior to the installation of the camera. That figure has since been reduced to 5.7 per year.

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