News Blog for Seattle's Maple Leaf Neighborhood


How many drivers get caught by the red light camera in Maple Leaf?

June 24th, 2010 · 9 Comments

Ever wonder how many many people run that red light at Northeast 80th Street and Fifth Avenue Northeast? The one with the red light camera?

The answer, according to the city: Only about two a day.

Since the camera was installed in February 2009, it has generated 1,086 citations through the middle of June, said Mike Quinn, Traffic Safety Camera program manager for the Seattle Police Department.

“This is the equivalent of 68 per month (16 per week) at NE 80th & 5th NE,” Quinn said in an e-mail.

That seems low, considering the camera is on a major arterial just off Interstate 5. The camera on the same street but the west side of the city, at Northwest 80th and 15th Avenue Northwest, does four times as much business. It resulted in 4,548 citations over the same time frame, Quinn said.

“It is always difficult to say why there are differences between intersections, given that many factors could be involved.  In this comparison, traffic volumes – several times higher on 15th Avenue NW – are probably responsible for much of the difference,” he said.

The red light camera program is controversial, with two class-action lawsuits filed against them, according to our new partners The Seattle Times. Among other things, critics argue that the $124 ticket Seattle issues for a violation caught by the camera is many times more than the state Legislature intended when it passed the 2005 law that permits the cameras.

Earlier this week Mukilteo reversed its decision to install traffic cameras after Tim Eyman filed an initiative to stop them.

Seattle and other cities argue that the cameras make intersections safer, and Quinn says he has the statistics to prove it. “The cameras are clearly having the intended effect of reducing the frequency of red light running at these intersections.”

From the first three full months of operation (March-May) in 2009 to the same three-month period in 2010, red-light running dropped by 16 percent in Maple Leaf, from 202 to 167, Quinn said. At the camera over on the west side, it dropped by 35 percent.

You can learn more about Seattle’s traffic cameras here and here.

Curious about the equipment? Go to the website of the Arizona – yes, Arizona – company that provides the service. Here’s a part of what it says about the equipment we have:

A single Axsis™ RLC-300 Intersection Safety Camera captures two high-resolution images from the rear of the vehicle using our 16 megapixel camera. The first image shows the vehicle with the front wheels behind the stop bar and the illuminated red light, and the second image shows the vehicle in the intersection with the rear wheels past the stop bar and an illuminated red light. These two images contain all the information needed to prosecute a red-light violation, including a clear image of the license plate, extracted from one of the actual violation images.”

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