Poll: Does Shrewsbury Need Red Light Cameras?
Safety cited as reason for pursuit of intersection cameras but data shows few incidents
The pursuit of red light cameras in Shrewsbury has been justified by the idea that the technology will make the town’s two busiest and suspected dangerous intersections safer. But just how unsafe are the intersections of Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue and Route 35 and Shrewsbury Avenue?
The answer, it appears, is not very.
Since the start of 2010, both intersections combined have seen a total of 28 motor vehicle accidents, according to police records obtained via the Open Public Records Act. That’s less than one a month, again, combined, and a strike against claims that the two intersections are routinely the site of car accidents.
“That number surprises me. I would have thought it would be higher,” Shrewsbury Councilman Tom Menapace said. “I don’t know if they’re just counting cars involved directly in the intersection or if they’re leaving out accidents that happen just past the intersection. All I can say is I’m surprised.”
Red light cameras are designed, according to companies such as American Traffic Solutions, to help prevent dangerous intersection accidents, most notably the T-bone accident, or side collision.
Menapace and the rest of borough council have been considering seeking red light cameras at the two intersections and have even prepared bid specs, though council approval to go out for bid has not yet been granted. Menapace has encouraged the borough to seek red light cameras to promote safety and to help assist a police department that doesn’t have the manpower to dedicate several hours to patrolling intersections.
In most instances, municipalities pay monthly fees to camera vendors to lease the cameras and provide support. The two then split the ticket revenue generated by the red light cameras.
According to police, the intersection of Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue has seen 18 accidents from the start of 2010 to July 2012. Route 35 and Shrewsbury Avenue has seen 10 accidents over the same time. The highest number of accidents recorded at each intersection during a single month over that two and a half-year span has been two.
Still, Menapace believes the cameras might have other safety impacts, notably making people slow down when approaching the intersections. Too often, he said, drivers going the speed limit in town are tailgated by other drivers disregarding posted speed limits.
Should those who drive recklessly find themselves with a ticket in their mailbox, they only have themselves to blame.
"We’re all little kids at heart. If mom slaps our hands we’re going to learn our lesson,” he said. “If it’s a resident, so be it. If they pick up a ticket or two, so be it. Maybe they’re be more observant the next time.”