A rolling danger
Fairview police warn of rolling-stop violations
Before the city of Fairview decided to set up its first red-light cameras at the bustling intersection of Northeast Halsey Street and Fairview Parkway, it was well known among law enforcement that the intersection was a hotspot for red-light runners and accidents involving cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
'I viewed it as a ticking time bomb,' Police Chief Ken Johnson said about the intersection, which draws many drivers going to and from Interstate 84. He said one of the worst traffic accidents during his nearly nine-year tenure occurred at that intersection a few years ago, when a female driver almost died after her car was broadsided by a car that ran a red light.
But since they became active May 4, the red-light cameras have shown that rather than blatant red-light runners, the most common traffic violation has been one that many drivers may not realize they are making.
It's known as either the California stop or the California roll: Rather than completely stopping at a stop sign or a right-hand turn, a driver rolls through it by slowing down, checking for oncoming traffic before driving off again.
By law, drivers have to stop at the stop line or before the crosswalk if there is one. Violating the law carries a $260 fine, the same penalty as running a red light.
The Fairview Police Department has only issued warning letters to drivers who commit a traffic violation, as the red-light cameras are still in a 30-day trial phase.
Of the 680 potential traffic violations the red-light cameras have recorded since May 4, 301 of them have been approved for warning letters and another 41 are being processed, according to data provided by the Fairview Police Department and Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems, which installed and maintains the cameras. Most of the recorded violations have been for rolling-stop violations, Johnson said.
At Fairview Parkway and Halsey Street, red-light cameras have caught drivers making right-hand turns rolling into the crosswalk and even through it, glancing to their left for a second or two before making the turn.
One major concern Johnson has is that the drivers are so focused on oncoming traffic to their left, they're not watching for pedestrians and bicyclists behind them or to their right, boosting the potential for accidents.
'We want people to stop at the line, look both ways and then proceed if it's safe to do so,' Johnson said. 'And that's not happening.'
Cameras record violations
Video footage from the red-light cameras confirm as much.
The red-light cameras, which are located along the side of the road 6 to 8 feet behind the intersection's crosswalks, can record how fast a vehicle is going when it passes them. Johnson said the average speed for many of these vehicles has been 16 mph - far too fast to come to a complete stop before the crosswalk.
In one video, an eastbound truck on Halsey Street making a right turn rolls through the crosswalk at 17 mph. In another video, a black Volkswagen rolls through the crosswalk at 24 mph, stopping beyond the crosswalk for about a second before driving off.
A red-light camera also recorded a westbound car rolling through the crosswalk on Halsey Street to turn south onto Fairview Parkway; a few seconds later, a bicyclist approached the intersection behind the car.
If the bicyclist got to the intersection a few seconds earlier, Johnson said, he or she might have been hit. Police still issued a warning letter to the driver.
Johnson said some drivers have called to question their rolling-stop violations and to claim that they did make a complete stop at the intersection.
'Yes, they came to a complete stop but well beyond where they're supposed to stop,' Johnson said.
The red-light cameras have caught more egregious traffic violations. In one video, a van ran the red light to make a left turn and nearly collided with an oncoming car, which stopped just in time.
So far, there have not been any rear-end collisions at the intersection, Johnson said.
Johnson hopes that increased awareness about the traffic violations, especially for rolling-stop violations, will bring the numbers down, especially before midnight Sunday, June 3, when the police will start officially issuing traffic citations.
'If we can change driver behavior, prevent a pedestrian getting hit or a traffic accident, it's been a success,' he said.