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Red Light Cameras Coming To Pittsburgh Intersections

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Running a red light in the city of Pittsburgh is about to get a little more risky.

By a 7-to-2 vote, City Council has approved red light cameras at 20 city intersections.

It's a pilot project for the next three-and-a-half years.

"It raises my comfort level significantly to know that we could test this, we could pilot this in approximately 20 intersections -- no more -- and then review it and see if it brings the benefit that we believe it will bring and, if not, we can review and dismiss," said Councilman Bruce Kraus, who heads the Public Safety Committee.

Some drivers said they had no problem with the experiment.

"It's a regular occurrence. A lot of people go through red lights. I just hope they let people pass through yellow lights still," said Michael Thornhill of the North Side.

Others worry about Big Brotherism.

"I think they could be thinking of better ways of handling the situation instead of leaving it up to technology to do it," said Ryan Bitzer of Downtown.

Drivers will be warned that an intersection is being recorded, and if a driver runs a red light, the license plate will identify the owner, who could be subjected to a $100 fine although no points.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, who supports the measure, says he suffered broken ribs 15 years ago when struck by a car running a red light.

Cameras may deter that.

"That's actually in effect in Maryland and some other states I've lived in, and it definitely does help with the traffic concern," said Alex Perry of Lawrenceville.

There is no word on what intersections will get the cameras, as PennDOT needs to sign off on that.

Again, the owner to whom a car is licensed will be responsible for the fine, not necessarily the driver who ran the light.

Philadelphia -- which already has 85 red light cameras -- took in $13 million in fines last year.

Under the state enabling law -- authored by local Pa. Rep. Paul Costa -- half the money in fines collected in Pittsburgh will go for traffic enhancement projects here and the other half goes to PennDOT.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says he will sign the bill, but it will be up to the new mayor to implement it.

The two members against this decision were Councilwomen Theresa Kail Smith and Natalia Rudiak. These two are concerned about rear-end collisions and that the revenue from the tickets would not go to the city.

Philadelphia attorney specializing in traffic and criminal cases, Saul Segan, joined Mike Pintek this afternoon to talk more about this decision. He believes that this is just a "cash-cow."

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"This is supposed to promote safety, but if someone knows that this is an intersection with a red light camera they may stop suddenly to prevent going through it and may cause an accident," said Segan.

As a citizen of this state, you are granted the right to confront your accuser in court, but without a person to witness it how can you confront a camera? Segan is concerned that these cameras are unfair and unjust to drivers.

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The largest national producer of red light cameras, American Traffic Solutions, had an interesting response to the accusation of being a "cash-cow."

Spokesperson and Senior Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs at American Traffic Solutions Charles Territo commented on the reasoning behind using red light cameras with Pintek.

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"The programs that are operated in Pennsylvania are operated on a flat, monthly fee," said Territo. "So, we don't receive any revenue based on the number of tickets issued."

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"The state of Pennsylvania and the Legislature has created a program that actually prevents it from being about money," said Territo. "And all of the intersections have to be approved by PennDOT before being selected."

He adds most importantly that this program will always be under a review every so many years. Outside of the service this company provides to the city, no more money will go to the company. Revenue made from these cameras will go to the safety of traffic around the city.

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