The traffic enforcement cameras installed at key intersections in Chesapeake such as Battlefield Boulevard/Atlantic Avenue and Campostella Road and George Washington and South Military highways started snapping pictures of red light runner in the last week of August. No tickets will be mailed until late September, but the goal of the program Chesapeake officials are calling Photo Safe is not so much to fine traffic scofflaws as it is to make some of the city’s most dangerous intersections safer.
According to the Chesapeake Police Department, the plan is to install 20 cameras at intersections selected using the following criteria:
- The accident rate for the intersection
- The rate of red light violations occurring at the intersection
- The difficulty experienced by law enforcement officers in patrol cars or on foot in apprehending violators
- The ability of law-enforcement officer to apprehend violators safely within a reasonable distance from the violation
- Pedestrian safety concerns.
Chesapeake is following the lead of its eastern neighbor Virginia Beach, which currently operates 20 red light cameras at its own most heavily traversed and most accident-prone intersections. Statistics from 2008 show that drivers in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are most likely to get into accidents at the intersections of Holland Road and Rosemont Road and Old Dominion Boulevard and Great Bridge Boulevard, respectively.
Across Hampton Roads, Newport News also employs red light cameras. Since the devices have only been in operation for a year or less in each locality, it is too early to fully assess how much the cameras have done to reduce accidents due to red light running. Whatever that contribution may be, however, it will be a welcome addition to trends operating since 2000 that have driven accident rates down 18.4.
The region’s population and traffic volume both increased over the past decade, but car, truck, motorcycle, bus and other vehicle accidents all went down in Hampton Roads. Portsmouth, in particular, saw dramatically fewer crashes, with the accident rate falling more than 70 percent. Norfolk also had to deal with significantly fewer accidents in 2009 than in 2000, with the later year witnessing about 21 percent fewer collisions.
Officials and traffic engineers can’t fully explain the drop in accidents on the region’s roads and highways, but they cite a combination of factors ranging from slowdowns caused by congestion to better teen driver training and greater seat belt use. Still, they welcome the decline. "It’s really great news," Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization traffic engineer Keith Nichols told the Virginian-Pilot on August 23, 2010.
As an attorney who has represented victims of traffic accidents for more than 20 years, I also welcome any news that our roads are getting safer. I also welcome any technology, including red light cameras, that make all drivers more likely to get home safely each day.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Virginia Injury Attorneys Blog and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.