Prince George’s police are shifting the focus to red lights when it comes to traffic enforcement, something officials say will continue to drive down traffic accidents and fatalities that have for years plagued the county.
The police department will install 49 new red light cameras and upgrade 23 existing cameras once a camera vendor is decided by February, said Maj. Robert V. Liberati of the county police.
In 2011, there were 485 traffic fatalities in the state, 105 of which occurred in Prince George’s County, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration.
Last year there were also 3,527 traffic accidents in the county that were intersection-related compared to 3,592 in 2010, according to county police.
Liberati, who runs the traffic camera program, said Prince George’s has had the highest amounts of incidents due to the county’s size of 500 square miles, population of nearly 900,000 and number of large feeder roads and commuter routes.
“Because of that, you can’t drive like you’re the only car out there,” he said.
Over the next 19 months, county residents will see four new red light cameras go up each month until there are 72, the same number of speeding cameras that were put in operation in 2011 and 2012.
Since Sept. 2011 through Nov. 2012 the speed camera program has issued 528,000 violations at $40 per violation.
Currently, those captured running a red light receive a $75 fine. There have been nearly 39,500 red light fines issued since September 2011, according to police.
Rick Ruggles, a Mount Rainier resident and advocate for public safety, said he supports any measure that encourages people to abide by the law, especially traffic laws.
“Some people don’t like them, but I’m actually in favor of them,” Ruggles said. “The laws are there to protect us. If we can increase the level of safety, that’s good.”
Liberati said they have not yet determined whether to have stationary or mobile cameras to move from location to location, but that will be decided on by February.
“When you sink a pole in the ground and attach permanent infrastructure, you’re stuck at that location,” Liberati said.
The current 23 existing red light cameras are all stationary.
“We have to be very careful about picking locations,” said Liberati, noting that the department is conducting traffic studies to determine which intersections cameras can be best utilized.
Mike Rodgers of Bowie said making sure red light cameras are mobile is essential.
“If you’re out to save lives, save children, prevent accidents, you must have the ability to move these things where you think you need it,” he said. “If the object is to slow traffic you must come out and be a little more aggressive. Some people just don’t give a damn, but they will if you make the penalty high enough.”
Liberati said red light cameras and automated traffic enforcement cameras in general are beneficial because they are unmanned.
“With automated enforcement, it’s great because you don’t need an officer to do it. It’s like a force multiplier. It frees up an officer to do other things. It’s beneficial to all,” said Liberati. “We’re integrating technology into our patrol.”