COLUMBIA — As of Friday, anyone caught on camera running a red light at one of two Columbia intersections can expect a $120 ticket in the mail.
At a news conference Friday morning at the Daniel Boone City Building, Mayor Darwin Hindman and Police Chief Ken Burton announced the end of a 25-day grace period during which the cameras were working but no citations were issued.
"Those of you interested in running a red light, today is not the day to do it. Nor is any other day," Hindman said.
Cameras are in place at Broadway and Providence Road and at Stadium Boulevard and Worley Street. Between Aug. 5 and Aug. 31, the cameras recorded a total of 296 violations; 63 were tossed out. A violation can be rejected if the quality of the picture is poor or if there is an obvious gender mismatch between the person driving a vehicle and the person to whom the vehicle is registered. The most common cause of poor image quality is sun glare.
Gatso USA, the company that installs and operates the cameras, is the first to review each violation, said Toni Messina, spokeswoman for the city of Columbia.
"Gatso does a first cut. They look at everything captured by cameras then they forward what they determine to be violations," Messina said. The Police Department conducts its own review before sending out citations. Gatso gets $41 of each $120 fine.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Friday morning that the city expects to have 16 cameras in place over the
next 14 months. "We hope they'll be very close to complete by about
this time next year."
The cameras in place now cover only northbound traffic.
St. Romaine said that the city has yet to decide where else it will place cameras but that the most dangerous intersections will be targeted.
Burton said that the cameras are first and foremost about safety.
"What we're hoping is that
the red light cameras will make people more cautious at all
intersections, not just where the red light cameras are," Burton said.
The increase in citations is expected to create a lot of work for the municipal court, where clerk Shara Meyer said the city already had seen an increase in traffic citations even before the cameras were installed. Meyer said the citation rate stayed steady for the first six months of the year but jumped by nearly 1,000 for the month of July. Red light cameras could add to that.
St. Romaine said the number of violations is significant. "If the trend continues, there could be a demand for additional people."
Burton said he'd rather see people obey the law than write a bunch of tickets. "We're hoping they won't have much work to do. We prefer that people actually obey and won't run the red light."