Caitlin Cecil, a recent graduate, hurried to make it through a yellow light on her way down South Hulen Street.
She was not pulled over and she did not have to explain herself to an officer for her speeding through the intersection, but several weeks later she received her punishment in the mail 8212; a citation for $75 and a photo of her car speeding through the intersection under a red light.
The red light camera, located at the intersection of South Hulen Street and Southwest Loop 820, is one of many issuing citations citywide.
The Fort Worth Red-Light Safety Camera Program has grown since the original bill passed in 2007 allowing this form of photo traffic enforcement in Texas. According to the fortworthgov.org website, 10 more cameras went live on Oct. 1 in addition to the 35 cameras already operating in Fort Worth.
The purpose and effectiveness of these cameras is questioned by some residents of the area, however, Fort Worth city officials insist that safety is at the forefront of their concern, not the revenue received.
Despite some opposition on the state level at various points over the past several years, Fort Worth has continued to add the cameras, bringing the total to 45 at the start of October.
Kevin Neal, communications officer for the Fort Worth Transportation and Public Works Department, said the use of red light cameras is primarily for the safety of the city’s residents and people traveling on the streets.
“I think it brings the dangers of running red lights to people’s minds more often,” he said.
Neal said that the program has proven successful thus far and the city has seen a large decrease in the number of accidents occurring as a result of red-light running.
“We saw the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities go down,” Neal said. “So yes it does generate revenue via the fines system, but our primary concern is that of safety for the residents.”
Mallory Burkett, a recent graduate, agreed that cameras as traffic enforcement at intersections across Fort Worth make people more aware of lights when approaching them.
“I think that they can be beneficial because some people don’t look before they cross traffic and wrecks happen, but they can also be a pain,” she said.
She said that the “pain” she refers to is inaccuracy of the cameras, and that several of her friends have received citations they didn’t believe were warranted.
Alison Lovett, whose daughter Lexi Lovett is a freshman biology major, shares Burkett’s concern for accuracy.
“I think it’s something that is probably needed, but I don’t think it’s as accurate as they want it to be,” she said.
Although some argue that the cameras are not completely accurate and fair in issuing citations, Neal said that the cameras used in Fort Worth are effective.
According to the American Traffic Solutions, Inc. website, the cameras used in Fort Worth are among the most accurate available. Each citation issued is accompanied with still photos and a video clip of the incident. By using the PIN and citation numbers given on each violation, the accused can log on to ViolationInfo.com and see a 12-second video clip of what the camera saw when it issued the citation.
The cameras, according to the American Traffic Solutions, Inc. website, will only issue a citation if the video reveals that the car either ran a red light or failed to completely stop when turning right on red. If the tires never stop moving, a violation can be issued.
For those still not convinced of the accuracy of the red light cameras, Neal said there is an appeals process that people can go through to dispute their citations.
Cecil insists that the light she went through was yellow, not red, but she was not sure she would contest it.
According to fortworthgov.org, the citations issued by the cameras are only civil citations that are not reported to insurance. The fine assessed is $75 which can be paid to the city of Fort Worth and no additional penalties are applied to driver’s licenses.
“Most people just write a check for $75 and stick it in the envelope and mail it back,” Neal said. “Some do contest it, but it’s a very small number.”
Individually, the $75 fines don’t seem significant, but the number of citations at each intersection is reportedly as high as 14,872, according to the Texas Tribune website. These can add up and bring in a great deal of revenue from each individual camera.
Neal said that despite the public’s skepticism, the city’s primary objective is safety.
Lovett said that she thinks the red light cameras should be used in areas where there are students to help enforce traffic laws, but that obeying traffic laws should be a matter of personal responsibility.
“People should be responsible because they are adults and they are driving, not because a camera is there,” she said.
The 109 is a product of students of the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism. To read more, visit the109.org.