Lower Merion’s police superintendent on Wednesday described a potential red light camera system that would largely pay for itself, part of the reason several Board of Commissioners members favored the idea.
Superintendent Michael McGrath told commissioners a new bill passed by the state legislature this year allows municipalities of 20,000 people or more to install cameras at certain intersections for the purpose of policing red-light runners.
A contractor would operate the cameras, the township would process the tickets, and the revenue from the tickets is meant to cover the cost of the program, with some left over to send to the state for redistribution through transportation grants.
The prospect was attractive to several commissioners.
“If there is minimal to no capital cost to the township,” said Commissioner Scott Zelov, “then it seems to me we should continue to learn more about this.”
Commissioner Cheryl Gelber said several of her constituents have contacted her to support going ahead with the program.
McGrath said cameras would be allowed only for enforcement of intersection infractions, not for any other type of surveillance.
“It’s an intrusion … but I think it’s a narrow one,” Commissioner Brian Gordon said, “and for a good cause.”
Since Philadelphia installed red-light cameras, the superintendent said, it has reported a 25 percent decrease at those intersections in “deadly right-angle crashes”, or “T-bone” accidents. However, the change also brought a 15 percent increase in rear-end crashes at those intersections, presumably from cars being struck from behind after stopping in time for red lights.
The standard fine is $100, though the township would have discretion to change the amount, McGrath said. An offense would carry no points on the driver’s license.
Likely 12 to 15 intersections would have cameras installed if the program went forward. Intersections are selected, with PennDOT’s approval, according to the rate of accidents there, not the volume of traffic, the superintendent said.
Commissioner George Manos asked McGrath, “What comes next here?” The superintendent replied that he would direct the traffic safety unit to get further information from potential vendors.
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