Red-light cameras needed in Greenville
Thursday, April 7, 2016
The Pitt County School Board on Monday tabled further action on a resolution approved by the Board of Commissioners for a funding request from the state for a red light camera system for the city of Greenville until public input is gathered.
The system is needed and should be strongly supported. However, the resolution would not signal support for the red light cameras. It merely would request that the N.C. General Assembly make changes to the law regarding how revenues from fines are distributed, making the program financially viable locally.
Operating costs for a camera system are a valid consideration for board members, as are concerns about the school system losing existing revenue from the county if the new supplemental income materializes. Both issues can be ironed out without rejecting the camera system.
If the General Assembly makes the requested changes, Greenville and the school board would enter into an interlocal agreement that would increase fines from $50 to $100 for running red lights and allow the school board to return half the money to the city. The agreement is necessary because state law requires all revenues from fines collected from violations caught on camera to go to school boards, while management of the system falls to municipalities. It will cost the city an estimated $52,200 a month to operate.
Some board members would like to use the remaining revenues to supplement pay for teachers and other school employees. That’s fine, but there should be only one reason for implementing this system: Saving lives. Maybe the extra revenue should be used to add more crosswalks and lights (not less) at heavily traveled pedestrian locations, particularly in school, college and university areas.
“I was a little surprised by the number of traffic accidents this community has, 500 a month,” Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman told commissioners. His thoughts are properly focused on saving lives and property, although data is not yet available to know with certainty whether it resulted in reduced collisions in Fayetteville, where the system has been enacted, he said.
Commissioner Tom Coulson, speaking against the camera system, said that a well-synchronized light system would reduce drivers’ frustration caused by waiting at red lights — including his own — and result in less violations and safer traffic. The frustration of being unable to undo a wreck that claimed a loved one’s life is what this red light camera system is about. Frustration is having to care for a paralyzed child trapped in a wheelchair for life because a careless driver was in a hurry.
Public input before voting on a measure like this is a good idea. The public’s potential disapproval of cameras that can detect their moving violations and result in significant fines, however, should not deter this action.