The city of Renton will turn on its red-light cameras on May 1, its long-planned effort to combat drivers who enter an intersection after the signal has turned red.
For the first month, those scofflaws will receive only a warning.
Starting on June 1, however, those caught on camera running a red light at four busy intersections in Renton will get a $124 ticket.
The Photo Enforcement Program is part of the city’s efforts to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians at four intersections deemed the worst for this potentially deadly driving habit.
The ticket is mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner, even if he or she wasn’t driving the vehicle at the time.
The registered owner (or in some cases, the actual driver if not the registered owner) can opt to challenge the ticket or at least ask for a mitigation hearing to explain why he or she ran the red light. A judge has the option to reduce the fine.
Using other cities as a guide, those hearings likely will be busy. Using other cities as a guide, Renton Municial Court officials estimate that the cameras will generate about 100 tickets a day; in other cities, about 13 percent of those tickets resulted in a hearing.
The city has added a Municipal Court clerk to help handle the extra workload. Also, because of the photo program and the annexation of the Benson Hill area, the city will hire pro-tem judges to preside over the expected increase in court cases.
Next up, in the near future, the city will implement the second phase of its Photo Enforcement Program. The city will install cameras and video equipment in front of three schools – Renton High School, McKnight Middle School and Talbot Hill Elementary School – where the speed limit is routinely violated.
The fines in the 20 mph school zones are based on the speed of the vehicle. For speeds 6 mph to 15 mph over the speed limit, the fine is $124; for speeds 16 mph and over, the ticket is $250.
The idea is not to make money for the city nor to violate anyone’s civil rights, concerns raised in other cities where the cameras were installed.
“While some critics may argue that money has motivated cities to use traffic cameras, the reality is that the cameras are intended strictly to increase safety and re-educate drivers about being careful on the roads,” said Mayor Denis Law.
Any money in excess of what’s needed to operate the program will go toward improving traffic enforcement in neighborhoods, Law said.
The cameras only take photos of the rear of the vehicle and not those inside.
The worst of the four intersections is at southbound Sunset Boulevard North, at Bronson Way and Maple Valley Highway. The other three intersections are southbound East Valley Highway at Southwest 43rd Street, westbound Northeast Third Street at Sunset Boulevard North and westbound South Grady Way at Rainier Avenue South.
The city may look at adding red-light cameras at Petrovitsky Road and at 108th Avenue South in the Benson Hill area and at Duvall Avenue Northeast and Sunset Boulevard Northeast in the Highlands.
The City of Renton is working with an Arizona-based company, American Traffic Solutions, to implement and then operate the program.
The city will pay $4,750 a month for each of the four cameras at the intersections and the three cameras in the school zones, or a total of $33,250 a month.
The system works like this. A sensor tells the system that a signal is about to change. The system can detect whether a vehicle is going too fast to stop before the signal changes to red. It snaps a picture before the vehicle crosses the stop bar, then snaps another one when the vehicle is in the intersection.
The light has to be red when a driver crosses into the intersection for a violation to occur.
A final decision on issuing a citation is made by an officer reviewing a video of the offense. The driver can go online to view the actual offense.
Renton officials are undeterred by a Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative that would turn over revenue generated by red-light cameras to the state to pay for his road-improvement plan.
Terry Jurado, Renton’s Municipal Court judge, said such an initiative won’t work because an individual city has to agree to turn over the revenue raised by such as local program.
Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information
Violators can view a 12-second video clip through the Web site www.ViolationInfo.com.
Information about the City of Renton Photo Enforcement Program, including how to pay a fine or request a hearing, is on the city’s Web site, rentonwa.gov. There is a link from the home page.