Gwinnett renews camera contract

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County will continue to use cameras to cite red-light runners.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to continue the five-year-old program, approving a $140,533 contract with American Traffic Solutions Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Public safety is far more important than the revenue," Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters said. "Protecting lives is our main priority."

While many local jurisdictions took down the cameras after revenues dropped last year, Walters said the cameras at three local intersections are expected to bring in enough money to pay for themselves, as much as $300,000.

In the contract, the county will consider to issue tickets in the mail for people who run the red light at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road, which was one of the first signals to have the technology in 2005. Cameras have been at the intersection of Mall of Georgia Boulevard at Buford Drive since 2008 and were moved about six months ago to monitor the intersection of Steve Reynolds Boulevard at Beaver Ruin Road.

According to Cpl. David Schiralli, a spokesman for the police department, citations have gone down, from 13,000 in 2006 to 9,000 in 2007 and 4,900 in 2008. They rose last year, passing 6,000 in November of last year.

"It looks like its doing its job," he said. "Less people are running red lights, which could cause some sort of serious accident."

In a press release, Schiralli said there were 51 fatal traffic accidents in Gwinnett last year, about 35 to 40 percent that could have been avoided if drivers had been wearing seat belts or using properly installed child seats.

He took the opportunity to also warn drivers that distractions like cell phones, GPS units and food often contribute to intersection accidents because people are slower to react to the yellow light. He added that following too closely can cause fender-benders at intersections.