A yellow light for traffic safety cameras

By Rebecca Carr | May 27, 2010

It’s true we can’t legislate against stupidity, nor can we write enough laws – or hire enough officers, or buy enough technology – to prevent every single idiot from injuring an innocent bystander with irresponsible behavior.

However, we can take some steps to prevent needless injuries and deaths, particularly when it comes to protecting our children.

We cautiously support the council’s decision to install traffic safety cameras on SR-525 in front of Olympic View Middle School, to monitor speed in the 20 mph zone, and at the intersection of Harbour Pointe Boulevard North and SR-525, to monitor red light runners, on a one-year trial basis. 

We understand the limited resources available in dollars and in trained officers, and think the cameras, if effective, could be less costly to taxpayers than trying for the impossible of installing an officer on every corner.

They are also safer than having an officer speed through the red light the violator just blew, putting more citizens at risk.

Should the numbers show significantly improved behavior at either of those locations, we would support a longer contract.

However, we aren’t convinced Advanced Traffic Solutions Inc. (the company leasing the cameras), or city staff gathered enough data in the original study, which only ran for one day – actually, 16 hours – at each location.

We question the validity of a single day’s worth of data, both in evaluating the safety of our roads, and in deciding whether to spend tens of thousands of tax dollars annually on a project that could either help, or harm the level of public safety.

Whether or not the cameras are here to stay, the discussion generated some sound ideas for making Mukilteo safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. We’d like to see those seriously considered.

The study of five different intersections around town thought of by many as trouble spots for red light runners didn’t show nearly the expected volume of violators during the 16-hour study period for each. However, with the exception of SR 525 and 5th Street, the vast majority of those who did run the red were turning right.

We would like to see that issue resolved somehow. We agree with Council Vice President Richard Emery’s suggestion of considering signage at the most troubled intersections, reminding motorists of the requirement to come to a complete stop before taking what could potentially be a very costly “free” right turn should someone get seriously hurt.

The signage would hopefully deter the more intelligent drivers among us; at the very least it would add teeth to the safety laws already in place.

The average time each light is amber ranges from 3.9 seconds at various locations, up to 4.5 seconds at SR-525 and Beverly Park Road. While no particular delay seems to show any better or worse numbers, we agree with Mayor Joe Marine that the timing should be consistent throughout the state, so people accustomed to having a certain amount of time to get through the light in their home city, don’t wrongly assume that padding is in place at all intersections.

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