Drivers in Pasco may have noticed some construction activity at the intersections of Burden & Road 68 and Court & 20th Avenue. The work is the installation of traffic safety camera equipment the City is using in an effort to decrease red-light accidents at these intersections. Installation of Electronic Traffic Control (ETC) systems at these intersections will continue over the next several weeks. Once operational, the first 30 days of operation will be a trial period where confirmed failure to stop violations will result in warnings rather than citations.
By way of background, with the increase in population in Pasco, traffic has also increased, along with vehicle accidents. Of particular concern are so-called “T-bone” accidents caused by “red light runners”, particularly in high-volume intersections such as Burden & Road 68 and Court & 20th Avenue. Such accidents cause the most severe injuries and can be deadly; yet they are easily preventable. Stationing police officers at these intersections is not recommended due to limited staffing available to consistently enforce traffic laws, best use of officers’ time, and the safety considerations for officers and drivers alike during enforcement activity in highly congested intersections.
With these concerns in mind, the Police Department started evaluating alternative methods of better enforcing red-light standards, including ETC. After several months of evaluation, multiple presentations to City Council and the public, the Department selected Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to provide a limited ETC program. The Redflex system is linked to the traffic signal and photographically records the rear part of only those vehicles entering the intersection on a red light indicator. Vehicles already within the intersection at the time the signal turns red are not detected. The photographic information is then sent electronically to the vendor’s system and the Department is notified of the possible violation. A trained Pasco Police Officer then reviews the photo to determine if a violation has occurred.
Like any traffic stop, the officer will have full discretion to determine if the possible violation is valid and authorize a citation. As in the field, the officer will take several factors into account including time of day, weather, number of vehicles observed in the area, pedestrians, and any other factor that the officer feels is pertinent in making the decision. If the officer determines there is no violation, the information is deleted. Should the officer determine a violation has occurred, an infraction notice will be issued to the owner of the vehicle. The offender receives the violation in the mail and can either pay the associated fee or contest the infraction through the Pasco Municipal Court. If the potential violator has any questions, they can visit the Police Department and discuss it with an officer. The alleged violator can also view the photographic record of the incident online.
In essence, the process is no different than if an officer stops a violator on the road and issues a citation. The determination on whether a violation occurred is up to the officer viewing the photo. The one major distinction being that unlike a traffic citation, an ETC infraction does not impact a driving record. Automated traffic camera systems are designed to improve the safety of the traveling public and the officers who enforce traffic laws.
“All revenues generated from the ETC program will be used only to cover program expenses and to help fund traffic safety improvements,” said City Manager Dave Zabell, adding, “With all other options reviewed, traffic volumes increasing and red light related incidents at high levels, the need to do something effective and efficient that will make a positive impact to public safety is important.”