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"If he lies, make him pay, fifty dollars every day"


Springfield's News-Leader has announced today in their opinion section that their position has changed on the red-light camera issue that has been a controversial one since the idea's first debut in city council discussions. Originally, the News-Leader made statements in their opinion section backing city council's plan on implementing the intersection cameras. However, the reason they have changed their position isn't because their opinion has changed. Rather, it's because city council has demonstrated their ability to lie outright about their intentions to gain approval.

The council stated that their intention with the use of cameras was to make the city's intersections safer. They offered plenty of statistics that suggested that red-light running in Springfield was the biggest contributor to right-angle accidents and then they made claims that the use of these cameras would help save lives and reduce accidents. There is no evidence so far that the one intersection in Springfield that has this camera system has helped in any way. It hasn't been up and running long enough to determine anything. So, I'll make no argument based on its effectiveness.

I'll let the following do the arguing for me. Here is part of the News-Leader's article from this morning:


The red-light cameras were promoted in Springfield by police and other city officials as an attempt to save lives. City officials said over and over again that the cameras would go up at the most dangerous intersections and they would be used to cut down on dangerous, often fatal, right-angle crashes. But since the city installed its first camera at National Avenue and Battlefield Road — which was only the city's 10th most dangerous intersection in 2006 based on number of accidents — the city has changed course.
The revenue from tickets at that intersection isn't keeping up with the cost of the program, more than $4,000 per month per camera approach. The city delayed installation of its next couple of intersections, and now it plans to install the next cameras at another intersection that is nowhere near the worst intersection in the city in terms of number of accidents, rate of accidents or the key statistic, right-angle crashes.
The next camera is set to be installed at Battlefield and Campbell, one of the city's busiest intersections, but not one of its most dangerous. If this program is about safety, the city is ignoring its own facts.
The intersection at Battlefield and Campbell did have the second highest number of crashes in the city in 2006, at 58. But because of its high volume — more than 70,000 cars per day — its crash rate is actually quite low. More important, it doesn't even show up on the radar screen in terms of the most important type of dangerous crashes the city is trying to stop: right-angle crashes. If the city is trying to stop those crashes, and save lives, which was its stated intention from the beginning, then there are numerous other intersections which should be considered first.
Tops on the list should be the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Republic Street. That intersection, which is still very busy at more than 54,000 cars per day, led the city last year with 60 crashes. Its crash rate was much higher than the other intersections being considered for first installation of red-light cameras. And it had 13 right-angle crashes in 2006, fourth highest in the city. Even higher on the right-angle crash chart is the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Republic Street, which had 15 such crashes. That intersection had 49 accidents in 2006, and of the top 25 intersections in the city in terms of number of crashes, it had them at the highest rate. Moreover, its three-year and five-year rate of crashes is also the highest among top crash intersections.
So if the city is concerned with safety, why aren't those intersections getting cameras first?
Why did the first camera go at an intersection that has the lowest crash rate among the top 10 intersections based on number of accidents? Why did the first camera go up at an intersection that was 25th in 2006 in terms of right-angle crashes? Why is the next camera going up at an intersection that isn't even in the top 50 in terms of dangerous right-angle crashes?
The city can say all it wants that this isn't about the money, but actions speak louder than words.
Here's what we said in October 2005 when the red-light cameras were first being discussed: "The Springfield City Council, if it chooses to install red-light cameras, should write safeguards into any lease specifying that the priority will be high-accident intersections with the highest percentage of right-angle wrecks."
Mayor Tom Carlson appeared at the time to agree, saying: "We're sensitive to the issue that red-light cameras can be seen as a revenue source. Doing it for that reason would not be politically smart."
Indeed, the council will look politically dumb if they allow city staff to continue to install cameras at high traffic intersections instead of the more dangerous ones.


The facts don't lie. Springfield City Council does.

2 comments:

Ha I heard a story about this on the radio yesterday about how they weren't making enough money to pay that $4000 a month. I thought they said they would be putting up several (15) more of these in town. Maybe I misheard.

You didn't mishear it. They put this first one up sort of as a test run. They'll get met with too much opposition if they do a lot of things we don't like at the same time. They do things slowly so that Joe Public will just say, "I don't like it, but I guess that it's just one. I can live with that." Of course ol' Joe says that every day. Joe's a real lemming.

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