Traffic control: City council should back red-light cameras

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It’s a well-known rule of the road: A police officer is rarely around when some jerk blows through a red light. Pittsburgh City Council has a chance to rewrite that rule Tuesday by giving the go-ahead for a red-light camera system.

Ricky Burgess, Darlene Harris, Bruce Kraus and Corey O’Connor said yes last Wednesday to giving city police this helpful tool, but an affirmative vote from one more council member will be needed this week to begin the pilot program.

Philadelphia, which started using the cameras in 2004, has seen the advantages — red-light violations dropped significantly and the system generated millions in revenue from motorists who were caught. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that fatalities from running a red light fell significantly in cities that had them. Last year, the Legislature said Pittsburgh could use the traffic-control devices if it wished.

The ordinance here would mandate that the photos and video captured could be used only for traffic enforcement unless a court orders their release to law enforcement for another investigation. Otherwise, the images would be destroyed in 30 days.

Signs would alert drivers to the cameras, and there would be a grace period for each, with warnings-only given out when the cameras are new.

Police officers can’t be everywhere. This modern tool can cut down on accidents and help them catch irresponsible drivers.

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