Kingsport Police Department Officer Bobby Schmutzler reviews a red light camera photo. Photo by David Grace.
KINGSPORT - More than 2,000 red light violations were recorded by the city's newly installed red light cameras over a two-week period, with the most violations taking place at the intersection of Stone Drive and Eastman Road.
Last month, cameras were installed at six of the busiest intersections in the Model City in what Kingsport Police Department officials say is an attempt to prevent traffic injuries. The cameras went live on March 31 and since then motorists have been under a 30-day grace period where people who are caught running red lights are issued a warning, rather than a $50 ticket.
The grace period ends at the end of the month.
Arizona-based RedFlex installed the cameras to watch seven approaches at the six intersections; a sworn police officer reviews all violations and determines whether a ticket is warranted.
Deputy Chief David Quillin said from April 1 to April 14, 2,047 violations were recorded at the six intersections:
•Fort Henry and Lebanon - 463 violations.
•John B. Dennis and Wilcox - 108 violations.
•Lynn Garden and Carters Valley - 215 violations.
•Stone and Clinchfield - 464 violations.
•Stone and Eastman - 568 violations.
•Stone and Union - 229 violations.
Mayor Dennis Phillips, who pushed for the cameras to be installed, said he was floored at the number of people who have a total disregard for the red lights.
"I think it has shown that our fears have been proven to be true, that an enormous amount of people are running red lights," Phillips said. "As people become more and more aware, hopefully that number will go down. It's really amazing the number of people when you look at this on film, who just absolutely ignore red lights."
Quillin said "it's really unbelievable."
"A lot of these violations, there are cars going through these intersections at 50 and 60 mph."
Even though the cameras registered more than 2,000 violations over a two-week period, Quillin said that does not necessarily mean every violation would have resulted in a ticket.
Tickets would not be issued if a vehicle obstructs the license plate of another vehicle running a red light; if an ambulance runs a red light to reach an accident or transport a patient to the hospital or if sun glare obstructs the license plate number.
"Not all of (the violations) are prosecutable and there's a variety of reasons," Quillin said.
Under the terms of the contract, RedFlex installed the cameras for free, but the company will receive 80 percent of the ticket price or $40 for the first 95 tickets issued at each approach each month. Kingsport will receive the remaining $10. After 95 tickets, Kingsport and RedFlex will split the $50 fine.
Assuming all 2,047 violations during the two-week period were prosecuted, then RedFlex would have made $61,150 and Kingsport $41,150.
Quillin said RedFlex estimated 5,200 violations a month at the six intersections, but as it stands now that figure may come in around 4,000 violations.
"I think people are becoming a little more acclimated to them," Quillin said, adding he thinks the figures will level off. "I think we're going to continue to see the numbers drop and it will level off at some point as people become more used to the presence of the cameras."
Phillips said he too believes the number of violations will begin to drop off.
"The goal is to have the number at zero. I don't think we'll reach that goal, but I think we'll make strides to get it down considerably from where it is now," Phillips said. "I think most people are in agreement and many people have been victims of close calls at red lights and they appreciate what we're trying to do."
Quillin said people have called him and shared that they were glad the cameras were installed at the various locations.
"I haven't received any complaints," Quillin said. "I've received a lot of positive phone calls from various people in the community who appreciate it."