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Despite hazy red-light camera data, crashes increase at intersection

Fairview removed devices from busy intersection in 2015 -

PMG FILE PHOTO - About 310,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of Fairview Parkway and Halsey Street each month. The number of crashes occurring at one bustling Fairview intersection jumped after the removal of a controversial red-light traffic camera system, according to Fairview police data.

Oddly enough, the findings don’t necessarily support arguments for or against the cameras. Red-light supporters argue that automatic ticketing systems discourage drivers from sneaking through intersections when they think there’s little chance of cross traffic, with the result of preventing T-bone or side collisions.

Detractors, however, claim skittish motorists will slam on their breaks rather than risk a ticket, leading to more rear-end crashes.

But after a red-light traffic camera system was removed from the intersection of Fairview Parkway and Halsey Street, rear-end collisions actually increased. And there were more reports of crashes because of red light violations while the camera system was still active.

Ten crashes and three injuries were reported at the Fairview-Halsey junction between May 2015 amd June 8, 2016, roughly the period when the camera system was deactivated. Five of those incidents involved rear-end collisions that occurred in traffic lanes, not the intersection itself. Another two involved DUII.

Fairview police Sgt. Gary Kirby found only one accident caused by a driver violating a red light during the last 13 months, and that occurred in early May 2015, right before the red-light program was shuttered. By comparison, in all of 2013, there were just three crashes and two injuries recorded at the intersection, two of which were caused by red-light violators who ignored the camera system. Driving through a red light also caused two collisions at the intersection in 2012. There were an additional two accidents that year caused by drivers failing to yield at the intersection.

The inconclusive nature of the data has led both sides to make of it what they will.

“The primary role of government is public safety, and now this report has highlighted an intersection that is unsafe,” said Councilor Brian Cooper, the lone supporter of the camera system remaining in City Hall.

“I’m not comfortable ignoring that intersection and hoping that the problem goes away,” he continued.

Cooper voted against removing the red-light cameras in 2015. He was joined by Councilors Steve Owen and Ted Kotsakis, who both later resigned from the council. Kotsakis is currently spearheading a recall petition against two other city councilors and Mayor Ted Tosterud.

Councilor Steve Prom, who supported the removal, argues that camera ticketing at traffic signals can cause deadlier accidents.

“There are so many different factors that cause different injuries and fatalities,” he said. “A lot of rear-end injuries (are) more severe than T-bone injuries, because the weakest part of the body is the neck.”

Along with Prom and Tosterud, Councilors Natalie Voruz and Dan Kreamier voted in favor of removing the red-light cameras.

The Fairview-Halsey intersection is near I-84, and is the first road crossing encountered by drivers using Exit 14. Around 310,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each month.