MOUNT CARMEL — Beginning next week, Mount Carmel police will be making use of a mobile speed enforcement camera vehicle that will function like the cameras on Highway 11-W except this system might be anywhere within the town limits.
Police Chief Jeff Jackson said Wednesday the main focus of the police department’s new Redflex mobile photo speed enforcement vehicle will be Carters Valley Road, where local residents have long complained of speeders.
Accident statistics in Mount Carmel dropped after the Highway 11-W cameras were installed by Redflex in 2007. Jackson said that prompted some Mount Carmel residents to contact the Board of Mayor and Aldermen requesting photo enforcement near their homes.
After the cameras were installed in April 2007, overall accidents decreased more than 35 percent in Mount Carmel, from 95 in all of 2007 to 61 in the cameras’ first full calendar year in 2008.
Accidents with injury also decreased from 26 in all of 2007 to 17 in 2008.
Jackson said he’s hoping for another drop in accidents after the new mobile system has been utilized on Carters Valley Road and other areas of town.
These days the Highway 11-W cameras are averaging right at 300 speeding citations per month.
There was a very vocal opposition to the Highway 11-W cameras at their inception, and Jackson said he’s expecting the same response from some people about the mobile unit.
He added, however, that the purpose of the camera enforcement is not issuing citations.
“You’re always going to have a few people who are allergic to change, but it’s really hard to argue with the statistics that have come out of the camera systems on 11-W,” Jackson said. “The goal is not to write tickets. ... The ultimate goal is to get everyone to slow down, pay a little more attention to their driving habits and be safe.”
As with the Highway 11-W cameras, there will be signs posted warning of camera enforcement when it is in use. The camera doesn’t catch speeders until the speeder has passed the camera vehicle.
“That should give everyone time to get slowed down,” Jackson said.
Mount Carmel Police Department Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said Wednesday that the camera vehicle will be used throughout Mount Carmel including subdivisions where the speed limit is 20 mph, school zones and main north/south thoroughfares such as Hammond Avenue and Independence Avenue.
The camera system can be set for any speed limit, Campbell added. The main focus will be Carters Valley Road, which has a 45 mph speed limit.
A survey recently conducted on Carters Valley Road showed the average speed of vehicles traveling that road was 15 mph over the speed limit.
“Our biggest speed problem area right now is Carters Valley Road,” Campbell said. “Our accident rate is highest over here, and the severity of accidents we’re having is worse on Carters Valley Road. Serious injury crashes and fatalities — Carters Valley. Not so much on 11-W anymore. We still have some minor crashes on 11-W, but no fatalities and no serious injury crashes, and we attributed that to the utilization of the camera system on 11-W. We’re hoping that it will do the same thing over here.”
Campbell added, “We’re going to concentrate on Carters Valley. There’s no doubt about it. We’re going to slow them down over here, but this vehicle can be utilized all over town.”
There is no expense for Mount Carmel for use of the mobile camera enforcement vehicle except for keeping gasoline in it. The vehicle is a hybrid and runs on its batteries until it reaches 30 mph.
A photo enforcement citation in Mount Carmel costs $75. With the stationary cameras on Highway 11-W, Redflex gets $35 for the first 100 citations in a month, and $25 each after 100.
With the mobile unit, however, Redflex will get $35 for all citations with no limits.
Jackson objects to anyone who refers to the town’s photo enforcement system as a “speed trap.”
“The word trap insinuates that something sneaky is going on,” Jackson said. “We’re not trying to trap anyone. We’re telling you with big signs that the cameras are there so you better slow down.”
Mount Carmel’s revenue from the Highway 11-W camera citations is being used to pay for a recently approved synchronized traffic light system at the intersections of Main Street and Hammond Avenue, and Highway 11-W and Hammond Avenue.