Red light review: How effective are Regina's red light cameras?

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September 23, 2013 - 6:31am Updated: September 23, 2013 - 7:32am
Car crash at Dewdney and Lewvan. Photo by Jill Smith, News Talk Radio
Car crash at Dewdney and Lewvan. Photo by Jill Smith, News Talk Radio

For any of you who’ve cringed going through the intersection of Lewvan Drive and Dewdney Avenue on the cusp of a red light, it’s all been for naught. The red light camera at that intersection isn’t working. In fact it hasn’t been working for the last three years.

“I don’t think that we hide the fact that it isn’t operational,” said Sgt. Andrew Puglia with the Regina Police Service.

They don’t hide it, but they don’t announce it either.

“The fact that the hardware is still there, I think it assists,” said Puglia.

So if you still count that one (and it is still counted on the RPS web site), Regina has red light cameras at three intersections. There’s the one “for show” at Dewdney and Lewvan, another at Albert Street and Parliament, and the cameras at Albert and Saskatchewan Drive.

“I think anything that prevents a motorist from going through a red light is a good thing,” said Puglia.

The question is: do red light cameras actually prevent people from running lights?

It’s hard to tell how effective they are based on the number of tickets handed out. There were 1,408 tickets handed out in 2010. Then in 2011, there was a spike — 1,662 tickets. The number dropped significantly in 2012 to just 1,395 tickets. These numbers aren’t broken down by intersection. At some point in 2010, the camera at Dewdney and Lewvan broke down. So the bulk of the tickets are from two cameras.

Before you get all worked up, keep in mind there are thousands more cars on the road in the last few years.

Still, the numbers are staggering for just two intersections. Add all the tickets up and they come to 4,465 tickets. At $230 a pop, drivers have paid $1,026,950 in red light tickets in those three years.
No one with the province, the city, or the police managed to confirm where exactly that money goes.

ARE CAMERAS MAKING INTERSECTIONS SAFER?

The intersection of Dewdney and Lewvan was the scene of a two-car crash Thursday, September 19. People crowded around the intersection of Dewdney and Lewvan as police sirens signal more emergency cars headed to the scene.

“We heard a loud crunch and we looked over and there was suddenly—the silver vehicle was just like, destroyed. And we came out here and looked. And they need the jaws-of-life because there’s somebody stuck in there,” said Jessica Dennis.

Witnesses watching the woman get pulled from her car said they fear this intersection.

“A lot of people just fly through this intersection,” said one woman who lives nearby.

According to SGI, of the three intersections with red light cameras, Dewdney and Lewvan is the only one with fatalities. That was between 1990 and 2012. People died in crashes in 1993, 1996 and in 2004.

Studies consistently show that right angle collisions decrease after red light camera installations. However, rear end crashes tend to go up as people slam on the brakes to avoid a ticket. Studies also show there is less loss of life in rear end crashes compared to right angle ones.

“If you run a red light at any sort of speed, there’s potential for an accident to occur that could be fatal or life-threatening,” said Puglia.

So if red light cameras make intersections safer and they generate hefty amounts of money, then why hasn’t the one at Dewdney and Lewvan been fixed? Sgt. Puglia says he doesn’t have the answer to that.

“My understanding is that the program is under review,” he said. “I’m not involved in that process so I can’t comment on that.”

A REVIEW IN FLUX?

The red light camera system seems to be in a constant state of review, in fact. A 2006 city report from the Works and Utilities Committee states that police were researching the possibility of installing digital technology at the cost of $10,000 an intersection. That plan never came to fruition.

There also appears to be some confusion as to who exactly is responsible for the cameras' maintenance. The 2006 report states, “Any decision to increase the number of cameras, change camera technology, or to relocate a camera is the responsibility of the RPS.” Yet, in a recent interview, the RPS seemed to think maintenance was the city’s responsibility.

There’s been no word as to when the review will be complete or if we’ll see a report on it. There also hasn't been any indication when there might be a definitive answer for what’s to become of the red light camera at Dewdney and Lewvan.

“Before we’d look at any advancements or how the program is going to proceed I think we’re just being responsible by making sure that an area isn’t repaired that maybe doesn’t need to be,” said Puglia.

Back on the scene of last Thursday’s crash, the woman is loaded into the ambulance. Fire fighters on-scene said she’ll be “okay” — this time.