Senate green lights red-light camera
Thursday, June 30, 2016
The state Senate on Wednesday approved Greenville's red-light camera legislation with a 31-19 vote, allowing the new law to go in effect on Friday.
It will be about six months before the system is operational, Greenville Police Chief Marc Holtzman said.
"I am very pleased with the support our local delegation gave the city of Greenville," Holtzman said. "The next step for us is to bring this back to City Council and draft a local ordinance establishing the red-light ordinance."
An interlocal agreement with the Pitt County Board of Education also needs to be adopted by both entities. The city will then solicit vendor bids and review plans for locating the cameras with city and state transportation department engineers.
Because the legislation was a local bill, Gov. Pat McCrory does not have to sign it for it to become law, said Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Pitt, the bill's primary sponsor along with Reps. Susan Martin and Jean Farmer-Butterfield, both of Wilson.
"I think this is a great demonstration of a partnership between the state legislature and city government," Murphy said. "It's legislation to help protect the citizens of Greenville and Pitt County."
The city wants to install 10 cameras that will capture images of vehicles running red lights at the intersections of Charles Boulevard and 14th Street, Charles Boulevard and Fire Tower Road, Arlington Boulevard and Fire Tower Road, Arlington Boulevard and Greenville Boulevard, and Arlington Boulevard and South Memorial Drive.
"Traffic safety affects everybody. There are thousands of people on our roads every day, and Greenville has a bit of a reputation for red-light running," Holtzman said. "I get this story shared with me quite often. Red-light running is a learned behavior. It can become cultural, and we have to be able to change the behavior. We do that by puttying in some permanent automation."
Greenville officers investigate 400-500 reported traffic crashes every month, Holtzman said. Not every crash is at an intersection, but those at intersections often involve injuries, he said.
Tickets issued from the images should discourage motorists from running red lights, as well as reduce crashes, advocates said.
"Red-light cameras reduce fatal red-light running crashes by 24 percent," Murphy said, citing statistics from an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study. "Red-light violations drop by 40 percent to 50 percent when these red-light cameras are in place."
Tickets will only be issued to vehicles that pass over the stop line after the light turns red, Murphy said. Photographs are reviewed by an officer before the ticket is issued. There will be an appeals process, and the city is required to have a non-judicial administrative hearing, Murphy said.
Greenville previously tried to use cameras to enforce traffic rules, funding the system with revenues it produced. However, an N.C. Supreme Court ruling declared all fines from traffic tickets had to be given to the school system as required by the state Constitution.
In 2014, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing law enforcement agencies to make arrangements with local school boards to share ticket revenue if the request is approved by the General Assembly.
The Greenville City Council, Pitt County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education approved resolutions this spring supporting the plan.
The legislation will allow the City Council to raise the fine for running a red light to $100. Under Fayetteville’s program, the model which Greenville is following, the vendor receives $35 per ticket, and the school board receives $65, Holtzman said. Those figures could change, depending on the vendor costs, he said.
There will be a warning period when the cameras go up, Holtzman said, with signs showing where the cameras are. The locations also will be published on the city's website, and the police department will work with local media and the police departments at East Carolina University and Vidant Health to alert students and hospital employees who live outside Pitt County to the new program.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.