Drivers playing a dangerous game of Red Light Roulette
One thing the city?s Photo Red program has revealed is a number of drivers are playing Red Light Roulette, taking a dangerous chance with their lives and the lives of others when they race through busy intersections betting they won?t get sideswiped by oncoming traffic.
Right now the City of Spokane has a total of seven Photo Red cameras installed across town. So far since the first ones were installed the cameras have captured thousands of violators and the Spokane Police Department says it proves the city has a problem with red light runners.
Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller sees it over and over again: Distracted drivers running red lights. Fuller reviews up to 400 videos every week and if she confirms the driver ran a red light she sends them a $124 ticket in the mail.
?We’re catching people we’ve never caught before,? Officer Fuller said.
In those videos being caught by the Photo Red cameras they?ve also caught multiple crashes. Second and Thor, Mission and Hamilton, Browne and Sprague, no matter the intersection, people running red lights are having near misses and getting into collisions with oncoming traffic.
Officer Fuller says the videos have recorded a lot of bad driving; in one clip not one or two but five cars run a red light at Freya and Third. One car runs the light and the rest follow. Each one of those drivers got tickets in the mail along with photographs of the infraction and an address to a website where they can watch the video of their alleged infraction themselves.
Most people pay the fine but others try to fight their tickets and end up in Photo Red Court. Every first and third Friday of the month drivers can try to get their tickets dismissed.
Most, like Gwyneth Johnson, see the video of their infraction and give up the fight.
?I was not paying attention. I just did a beautiful job of sailing through and made my turn,? Johnson said.
Johnson chose to mitigate and had her ticket reduced from $124 down to $100.
?My husband and I cracked up laughing when we saw the video,? she said.
The video is a hard witness to beat. Nearly 1,900 people have come to court and less than 160 have had their tickets tossed. Only about one in ten are successful. Thomas Becker was one of those lucky few who beat the odds. The law says you don’t have to pay if you were not driving the car.
?I was in the middle of trying to sell my vehicle and I had multiple people test drive it,? Becker said.
Since Becker didn’t know who was driving, his ticket was dropped, but in cases where you do know the person behind the wheel you have to tell the court and it mails them the infraction.
Sean Zuba fought his ticket Friday and lost. He says the red light cameras have changed his driving habits.
?Whenever I see a yellow light I stop when I go right,? Zuba said.
Officer Fuller likes the cameras and would like to add four more in Spokane.
?To put into perspective we had 7,000 tickets at intersections in our city so that tells you right there, there is a huge problem with red light running in Spokane,? Fuller said.
The city has 250 signaled intersections without the cameras so the problem of red light running is much worse than people realize. Fuller blames it on two things: ?Distracted driving. ? people not paying attention or people that are pushing the lights.?
The Photo Red Program has had mixed results in Spokane since its inception. They are supposed to encourage the reduction of collisions, particularly t-bone and rear end collisions. However while rear-end collisions have dropped the number of T-bone crashes have increased.
Statistics show overall the number of crashes have not decreased since the first Photo Red cameras were installed and police say they need another year of data to determine if the cameras are working.