Napa City Council to Reconsider Red Light Camera Traffic Enforcement System | Local News

Amid calls from the community to improve road safety in the City of Napa, the Napa City Council will consider on Tuesday whether the city should reinstate a once-controversial red-light camera traffic enforcement that disappeared from Napa intersections. since 2017.

A red light system had already been approved by the city council in 2008, according to previous register reports, under a contract with Australian company Redflex Traffic Systems. Among council members, then-mayor Jill Techel voted alone against the contract and said the scheme would constrain too many motorists committing low-risk traffic violations.

But in 2017 — eight years after cameras began popping up at local intersections — the city council decided not to renew the Redflex contract, despite a recommendation to do so from the Napa Police Department. One of the program’s early supporters, then board member Peter Mott, said he didn’t think the benefits of the system outweighed the harms.

One such downside was community dismay over fines of nearly $500 that would be mailed to people’s homes as a result of violations. Throughout the life of the program, cameras existed at four intersections: Jefferson and First streets; the junction of Highways 29 and 12/121, Trancas Street and Big Ranch Road, and Soscol and Imola Avenues.

People also read…

“If someone lives paycheck to paycheck and gets a $500 bill in the mail, that’s a huge penalty,” Techel said at the time.

Redflex had also been trapped in corruption scandals in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, resulting in multiple prison terms for city and Redflex officials. The company eventually agreed to pay a $20 million settlement in Chicago in response to a lawsuit for alleged fraud.

Mayor Scott Sedgley was the only council member to support renewing the contract in 2017. He argued at the time that the red light system improved road safety.

“Recidivists are close to zero; it’s a learned behavior,” Sedgley said at the time. “That’s the advantage of the program, that people know the cameras and the cost of tickets. The fine seems high, but it is the price to pay for breaking the law.

Sedgley said in an interview Friday that his mind hasn’t changed since the 2017 vote. He said he’s always believed that red light cameras do an effective job of reducing crashes at major intersections in Napa. Sedgley added that he has yet to consider what the red-light camera reinstatement plan would be, but he is generally in favor of reinstating such a system.

“I got a ticket, one of those expensive red light tickets,” Sedgley said. “And it changed my behavior. When I approach yellow lights now, I slow down. It was a positive change because it is an expensive ticket. You can avoid this expensive ticket by not crossing the yellow lights. It’s quite simple.

Other current board members have also said in interviews that they support exploring the reintroduction of such a system.

Council member Bernie Narvaez — who called while driving, via a hands-free Bluetooth connection — said he saw someone go through a red light in Napa just before the interview, and he sees it all the time. He said there had been concerns in the past about the revenue-generating side of red-light cameras. But, he added, the fee can help the city cover program expenses and also cover road safety education.

As for the high price of the past program, Narvaez added that he hoped everyone would think twice about traffic decisions after being fined $500. He said he hopes the program will not generate revenue, because it means people follow the law.

“It comes down to one thing and that’s safety,” Narvaez said. “Safety for pedestrians, for cyclists and for the rest of the members of our community. I don’t seek to seek out and punish people; what i hope to take away from all of this is that people don’t run red lights.

Council member Liz Alessio said in an email that she supports a red light camera system based on the information she currently has. She said Napa ranks very low in traffic safety – according to California Office of Traffic Safety data covering 2019, Napa County was the sixth worst in 105 comparable jurisdictions for total number of fatal and personal injury accidentsand second worst in a composite score that compares each crash type.

Alessio added that Napa has more vehicles entering and leaving the city than ever before and keeping everyone safe is his top priority.

Council member Mary Luros said she thinks she will likely support a red light camera system as well. She noted that the city had to reduce traffic control due to the pandemic. Even though the Napa Police Department has brought back its traffic unit in recent weeks, Luros said, the unit is only made up of three people at this time and the city hasn’t been able to build it where she should be.

Sedgley added that drivers should be aware that the police department is already targeting certain dangerous intersections, identified as such through crash data.

“It would be wonderful if we had a traffic cop on every street in town, but that’s not practical,” Sedgley said. “I think we need to use technology to our advantage. If we can improve safety at these intersections and we can do it at no extra cost, that’s the right thing to do.

You can reach Edward Booth at 707-256-2213.

Comments are closed.