Blinding Flashes a Nuisance for Motorists

Red-light cameras have become a nuisance for some motorists in the area of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue in Lone Tree, Colorado.

Lone Tree Voice By Chris Michlewicz, Published: 02.12.10

Authorities expect the devices to reduce accidents and traffic congestion. Those who drive along Lincoln Avenue near the I-25 interchange might have seen the bright flashes of light coming from bulbs mounted on light poles at Lincoln and Park Meadows Drive and Lincoln and the highway’s northbound off-ramp, known as San Luis Street. The intersections were identified in a study as problem areas: Lincoln and Park Meadows Drive for congestion, and Lincoln and San Luis for frequent crashes. Lone Tree officials decided to correct the problem by enlisting the services of American Traffic Solutions, which installed and maintains the cameras, prepares violation notices, provides the software for violation approval, and collects fines on behalf of the city’s police department.

Since the first set of cameras was placed at Lincoln and Park Meadows Drive in July 2008, Lone Tree has collected $218,000 in fines. That includes numbers from the second and third sets of cameras, which were installed in November. The cameras, however, have proven effective. There is less bottlenecking at the Lincoln and Park Meadows Drive intersection, an issue that caused major back-ups for eastbound and westbound traffic on Lincoln. Statistics on the number of accidents are not yet available, said Sgt. Scott Cavenah, traffic supervisor for the Lone Tree Police Department.

But some motorists are upset about what they call blinding flashes of light, even when there are no vehicles in the intersection. Parker resident David Wilson said he became aware of the cameras as he sat at a red light on westbound Lincoln last summer. While he applauds efforts to improve safety, Wilson believes the cameras could eventually end up causing an accident. “What I can’t understand is the random timing of the photos being taken,” he said. “I watched it flash twice when there was no one even violating the law.” A city spokesperson attributed the “random” flashes to the system “recalibrating” itself. Wilson said the flashes can be distracting to motorists, especially out-of-towners who might not be aware they are present.

The Lincoln and San Luis intersection was found to be a hotspot for regular violations. The study found a high accident rate, a large number of violations during the research period, and significant congestion. Furthermore, officers could not effectively work at the intersection because of its design. Cavenah has collected data on the intersection but said the numbers are too preliminary to determine whether the red-light cameras have been effective. “A better comparison can be made once we get at least one-year’s worth of data to review,” he said in an update sent via e-mail. The annual expense to Lone Tree for all three cameras is $180,000. The city ultimately hopes to gain voluntary compliance with the traffic laws and maintain better traffic flow in the area.

Wilson would prefer to see the cameras removed, but expects to see more of them in the Denver metro area in the coming years. “Unfortunately, I think things are going that way,” he said. “They are the cops. They can pretty much do whatever they want.”