Red light runners beware Police program targets them


When they're not looking at traffic reports, Sgt. Glenn A Hansen's hazel eyes serve as the county's binoculars for spotting motorists who run red lights.

On April 1, he and other officers began staking out the county's most dangerous intersections in search of red light runners.

When the officers spot a vehicle running a light, they radio its description to a patrol officer down the street who then nabs the motorist and writes a $50 citation.

"The whole concept is to try and reduce the number of collisions we have in the county," said Sergeant Hansen, supervisor of the department's traffic enforcement section. "I believe the program will prevent accidents."

As of May 11, 226 citations had been issued under the department's new selective traffic enforcement program, he said. The county may be the only police department in the state with the anti-red light running program. North Carolina has a similar program.

A fatal and tragic example of what Sergeant Hansen is trying to prevent occurred April 29 when a dump truck driver ran a red light at Route 175 and Thunder Hill Road, striking several cars.

Suzanne Denise Bice, 43, of Owen Brown died at the scene, police said. Her son, Phillip, 12, is in fair condition at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

The truck's brakes were later found to be defective. But witnesses told police that the dump truck driver ran the red making no attempt to stop. He's been charged with manslaughter and 16 other charges.

Because of that accident and others, and concerns voiced by neighbors, traffic officers added the intersection to their list for monitoring, Sergeant Hansen said.

All sorts, young and old, rich and poor, run red lights, Sergeant Hansen said.

"There's no profile of the red light runner," he said. "We've had people of all ages. It's not just young people. Some are upstanding people who are impatient and don't realize the risk they're putting people into."

With statistics from the state highway and police departments, police have singled out the county's most dangerous intersections.

Topping the list in 1992 was Baltimore National Pike (U.S. 40) at Rogers Avenue. That's where 25 accidents occurred last year and where 26 people were injured, statistics show. The others are U.S. 40 at North Chatham Road, U.S. 29 at Owen Brown Road, U.S. 40 at Ridge Road and Maryland 108 at Route 175.

Sergeant Hansen, a former patrol sergeant and detective, said his crew is trying to monitor those sites now.

He joined the traffic unit in March, then developed the red light monitoring concept as another traffic enforcement tool. Police, he said, usually have programs to combat speed violators but not red light runners.

Researchers say statistics show that 36 percent of accidents in the county are caused by excessive speed and 25 percent by failing to grant right of way.

As for the motorists stopped for running a red light, Sergeant Hansen said, "Nobody's happy that they get a citation, but they understand the purpose."

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