Despite Pushback, City Officials Want To Revisit Red Light Cameras For Charlotte

Mar 8, 2018

Red light cameras are back on the radar of Charlotte officials despite a recommendation from city manager Marcus Jones to not use them. But Mayor Vi Lyles and some council members want more information to justify his decision.

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Nearly 30 pedestrian fatalities involving automobiles occurred on Charlotte streets last year—up 53 percent, according to CMPD. We know that in at least in a few instances pedestrians died after being hit by drivers who ran red lights. That loss of life is why Lyles, who appeared on Charlotte Talks, said city officials should consider bringing red-light cameras back.

“We have a new plan called vision zero,” Lyles said. “That’s zero losses from fatalities and many tools in the toolbox and red light cameras is one of them. I actually went out and went to several intersections and counted the cars of people running red lights so I do think people run red lights in the city.”

According to CMPD officials, in 2016, nearly 1,100 citations were issued to red light runners. Another 44 went to drivers for making illegal turns on red.

A 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that red light cameras in other cities resulted in a 21 percent drop in fatalities from drivers running red lights. Cameras were used in Charlotte from 1998 to 2006. The cameras were taken down after an appeals court ruled that 90 percent of the revenue generated from citations had to go to school systems.

Julie Eiselt, who co-chairs city council’s public safety committee says the city could not afford the management and maintenance of the camera system. She says it should be revisited as a public safety issue.

“I’ve been in the crosswalk twice where you have to jump back on the sidewalk,” Eiselt said. “It wasn’t like I was in the intersection and the light turned red. People are just in a hurry. They know no one’s enforcing it so they run right through.”

Eiselt says she wants to know if a deal can be reached with school officials to cover some of the costs. She also wants to know how effective the cameras have been in reducing violations and preventing fatalities in other cities and when they were used in Charlotte.

“We’re saying present us with the data to see how it was used before and what the outcomes were," Eiselt said. "Yes, people talk about rear-ending but as somebody else pointed out, that’s better than getting t-boned. Are there more injuries? We don’t know. We haven’t seen any data."

She and Mayor Lyles hope to get more data from Jones about alternatives and his concerns about cameras. Lyles pushed for the cameras as a member of city council.

“I’m not saying I want red light cameras without knowing what it will accomplish," Lyles said. "What I say to the city manager is tell us how it works and if effective how do we do it. And if not, tell us what is [effective] so we can make the city safe for walking."

Lyles and Eiselt say even if red light cameras were to return they are not looking at this as an opportunity to raise revenue.