Photo tells 1,00 words and may save lives, too; Red-light cameras: Baltimore County is latest to try to alter dangerous behavior at intersections.


BALTIMORE COUNTY deserves applause for beginning its own red-light camera program. Police say seven people died in crashes in the county last year because someone ran a traffic signal. Too often drivers make a bet with themselves that they can get through an intersection before the light turns from yellow to red.

One way to combat such dangerous behavior is by using cameras that record red-light runners when police aren't around. The success of such a program in just one year in Howard County proves its worth.

Howard police have issued 13,784 citations since they stopped handing out warnings last February. Drivers who are cited can contest the $75 fine in traffic court, but the photographic evidence is often irrefutable. Fewer than 20 contested cases ended in acquittals. The county has collected more than $750,000 in fines.

Currently, 20 crossings have cameras, and Howard police say they now are catching half as many red-light violators as they did when the program began. The idea is spreading. Montgomery County has a pilot program with one camera. Baltimore County will begin with 10 cameras this summer and add 10 more before year's end. Baltimore City is expected to announce a red-light camera program. Anne Arundel County is considering it.

At intersections controlled by traffic signals, there were 460,000 crashes with injuries and 2,600 fatalities in 1996, according to the most recent statistics from the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Red-light cameras may be the way to change motorists' behavior and reduce crashes at intersections. More drivers need to get the picture.

Reducing red-light runners

Columbia intersections w/cameras March '98 cited Dec. '98 cited

Broken Land Parkway/north at

Snowden River Parkway 15 7

Broken Land Parkway/south at

Snowden River Parkway 26 7

Broken Land Parkway/south at

Cradlerock Way/north 21 13

Broken Land Parkway/south at

Steven's Forest Road 12 7

SOURCE: Howard County Police Department

Pub Date: 2/01/99

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