Red-light cameras find acceptance in Missouri towns

Sunday, October 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:13 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A camera may be watching the next time you run a red light in Columbia.

The St. Louis suburbs of Arnold and Florissant already have red-light cameras, and several other cities around Missouri are considering them.

“We can’t have an officer on every street corner in the city all the time – it’s just not practical,” said Lt. Bill Bonsack, in charge of technology services at the Arnold Police Department.

Arnold has had cameras at four intersections since November 2005.

Florissant has had cameras at two intersections since last summer and the city plans to add cameras to nine more intersections.

Florissant Police Chief William Karabas said his city’s reaction so far has been very positive and that 90 percent of respondents to a survey by the city supported the use of the cameras.

“We’ve only been into it three months,” Karabas said. “It’s won wide acceptance by the general public.”

The Columbia Police Department would select four or five intersections, Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said.

A study published by the Federal Highway Administration (pdf) in 2005 found that there were fewer T-bone accidents, in which one car collides head on with the side of another, but more rear-end collisions at intersections with red-light cameras

“We hope to reduce both, but if we have to have less of one and more of the other then we certainly would much rather have less T-bone type accidents and more rear-end accidents,” Boehm said.

Motorists received warnings instead of tickets for 30 days after Florissant installed cameras in May, and Boehm said he expects Columbia to have a similar grace period.

“We want to have a lot of community education related to this,” Boehm said.

For those who are skeptical about the proposed cameras, City Counselor Fred Boeckmann’s advice is simple: “Just know there’s going to be cameras, so don’t be running red lights.”

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