Opelika police chief Tommy Mangham said discussion about the cameras started a year ago.
“We’ve talked to the Montgomery Police Department who has this system installed at the present time, and they are quite pleased with it,” Mangham said.
Other than decreasing accidents, Mangham said the traffic cameras allow police officers to clear up confusion that can result from an accident.
Several intersections in Opelika are under consideration for cameras based on Geographic Information Systems data, which reveals the most volatile intersections, Mangham said.
Three intersections with Gateway Drive—Frederick Road, Thomason Drive and Pepperell Parkway—are targets for the cameras. These intersections with Gateway Drive would be the main focus because of the number and severity of accidents that occur as a result of the high volume of traffic in this shopping district.
“Our main objective is not to issue citations—it is to decrease accidents and the severity of them,” Mangham said. “We’re approaching it on a safety issue.”
Mangham said he is optimistic that Opelika will eventually have the cameras since Montgomery was able to pass the legislation.
Montgomery is the only city in Alabama with red light cameras.
Capt. John McCall, commander of the traffic division and red light camera program manager for Montgomery, said he expects many major cities in the state will have the cameras in the next two to three years.
“Most of the people in the town are happy that we have them,” McCall said. “We get very few complaints about them. Most of the calls I get regarding red light cameras are people calling wanting to know if they can get one for their neighborhood.”
From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2007, before the cameras were installed, Montgomery had 7,285 accidents.
After the cameras were installed in April 2008, 6,552 accidents were recorded from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30.
Since the installation of red light cameras, traffic-related fatalities in Montgomery have also decreased from 36 in 2007 to 8 in 2010, McCall said.
McCall said although one to two people per month contest their citations, they have a 100 percent conviction rate.
“If you ask me, ‘Are red light cameras working?’ I’d have to say yes,” McCall said.
David Dorton, director of public affairs for the city of Auburn, said the City Council began discussing the use of traffic cameras in 2003.
However, discussion at the time was thwarted in part by a state law which required police officers to witness a person running a red light to issue a ticket.
“(Assistant City Manager Jim Buston’s) research found that there’s some question as to whether the red light camera actually decreases accidents at intersections, and there’s some evidence that says it increases them,” Dorton said.
“Our statistics don’t show a lot of accidents where running a red light was responsible, and just balancing that with the expense of red light cameras, the assistant city manager’s recommendation a year ago was that we don’t have a compelling reason to install them in Auburn.”
Dorton said the city would revisit the issue if the Council wishes to.
“As much as people hate to see them come into town because of the fear that they may end up getting one of these citations, they’re really a good thing,” McCall said.