The Council Bluffs City Council this week approved installing cameras at some of the worst corners for crashes. The automatic red-light cameras will shoot a picture of any car that goes through the corner after the stoplight’s changed. The city of Davenport did the same thing 6 months ago, and city traffic engineer Gary Statz says they’re calibrated to the “stop bar” at an intersection.He says if you aren’t at the stop bar yet and the light turns red and then you enter the intersection, you get your picture taken. It shoots the license place and the city will mail you a citation for 65-dollars. That takes care of objections over safe stopping distance, as the engineer explains it “shoots” only cars that could have stopped for the yellow light, before they entered the intersection. Statz says most people who’ve received the tickets so far have paid them. Some drivers have come in to contest the ticket — but when police show them the brief video of their car running the red light, he says “They pretty much ask ‘Where do I pay?'” Another question that often comes up is whether the owner was driving the car at the time. The city has written rules to handle that and make the charges stick. The city issues a ticket to the owner of the car, rather like a parking ticket. If someone else borrowed your car and ran the light, it’s up to you, the owner, to pay the ticket and collect the money from them. Statz laughs, “We just assume that you’re on a friendly basis with that person, I guess.” If you’ve filed a stolen-car report, he says an owner will not be charged for infractions by a thief driving the car. He says Davenport decided to try the red-light cameras to tackle some trouble spots. The city chose intersections where the most crashes were caused by drivers running red lights, and put cameras at five of the worst ones in the city. He says over the last 3 years, there were 10 or 11 red-light-running crashes recorded at some of those corners. He says that means there were a lot more drivers who got away with running the lights at those corners. A private company paid for the cameras and is operating them — and it collects half of every ticket that’s paid. He says the city of Davenport has a five-year contract with the company and so far is satisfied with the red-light camera system.
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