Red Means Stop

The Town Council will take up the Red Light Camera issue on Monday. Half of the Council seems squarely and enthusiastically in the pocket of the company that runs the system, in fact they recently held a "forum" in which several of this company's lobbyists were given the Town's bully pulpit to advocate for their client/sponsor, ACS.

Fortunately, Council Member Mark Kleinschmidt has petitioned the Council to return to due process for red-light runners. And the Chapel Hill News weighs in with an editorial in favor of eliminating the program:

There are numerous problems with the concept — technological flaws, incursions on privacy, conflict with state public records law — but the basic issue stems from introducing commercial, for-profit enterprise into a basic governmental law-enforcement responsibility.

I couldn't agree more. I have full confidence in the Chapel Hill Police Cheif's ability to adddress red light running and other criminal acts with the priority they are due. And his boss is the Town Council, so I know there will be accountability for his actions.

If you can't make it to the meeting on Monday night, you can always e-mail the Council and let them know what you think. They've obviously heard from a number of poeple who are paid to support the program, so it seems critical to let them hear some other perspectives.



Even if one agreed that Red Light Cameras were a good thing, wouldn't you take another look at how things are working out when your Council members act as little more than flacks for the contractor and their PR firm?

Especially when the PR firm poses falsely as an independent citizens' group?

Especially when the vice president of the PR firm is stalking around the building so that his supporters can say "he's not here" (but he's in another room)?

Especially when the company in question has a history of manipulating elected officials in other states?

Who's running the show is becoming a bigger question than the question of the lights...

Boy, there sure is a lot of missinformation posted here regarding the Red Light Camera issue. A few points of clarification are needed, then below those points I've posted a more objective assessment of the situation than what I've seen here and other locations.

First point of clarification - I have spoken to more than 100 local citizens who are absolutely in favor of the camera approach, and none of them have any affiliation with the company or this PR firm someone has alluded to, including me - this is a real grass roots feeling, not some cooked up PR approach;

Second point of clarification - none of those Council members who support continuation of the red light camera program have any personal or financial relationship to the company or the PR firm referenced;

Third point of clarification - many have the same degree of confidence in our town staff and Manager as that expressed above in regards to our local police, and those most knowledgeable of the situation in fact support the program and the quality reputation of this company. In fact our local police and the town Manager support this project.


Many local residents continue to weigh-in on the very serious matter of traffic safety and the importance of continued support for the use of red light camera technology at our busy intersections. Fundamentally, however, the nature of the current debate over red light camera placement at intersections highlights a deeper concern for many - - - specifically, a local government which is truly representative and is serious about its responsibility for making sound sustainable policy decisions.

A few of our elected officials are poised to rush forward with a roll back of the red light program based on very narrow viewpoints. Buffeted by the recent election of Sally Greene and Cam Hill, these Council members have implied that they have a “mandate" to advance their personal views by back-peddling on the policy of placing red light cameras at busy intersections.

The public wants our local government to look out for our personal safety as a foremost priority. This debate is only secondarily a question of economics, fuzzy photos or contractor performance issues. The placement of red-light cameras at intersections is an important opportunity for sound and efficient safety systems, and is in fact a supplementary tool available to local law enforcement.

While many experts more knowledgeable than I have made attempts to get the facts to the public, not all of the information has been presented in an accurate way. Summarized below is a point-by-point rebuttal of just a few of the inaccuracies presented by Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt, and perpetuated by a few in the communitys:

Erroneous charge #1: in remarks to WRAL, Mr. Kleinschmidt said that "once upon a time" when a police officer stopped a red light runner, the driver "would receive a citation and they'd have a day in court" and suggested that a red light camera "undermines all of the protections that our court systems offer to people."

FACT: With photo enforcement, any individual can appeal their citation and have their day in court. The fact is the photograph provides compelling evidence of guilt, and many people choose to pay.

Erroneous Charge #2: Mr. Kleinschmidt has challenged the cameras as an invasion of privacy.

FACT: This defies common sense. A live traffic stop is much more invasive of privacy than a photograph taken of the rear of the car by a traffic camera. In stopping an automobile, the police officer can examine the floor of the car, articles in the passenger's lap, and any number of visual cues to criminal or private activity that wouldn't be available from a photograph.

Erroneous Charge #3: In his petition, Mr. Kleinschmidt says a corporate third party was inserted "between resident and government and fundamentally changed the relationship between the municipality and its citizens."

FACT: The city must approve and sign-off on every citation issued. This argument is similar to saying a postage meter company is a corporate third party between the government and its citizens.

Erroneous Charge #4: In his petition, Mr. Kleinschmidt states "the claim of improved safety at red-light camera intersections is largely a myth."

FACT: Mr. Kleinschmidt is distorting the facts as there is ample scientific evidence to the contrary. Numerous scientific studies have shown that cameras improve intersection safety. And the claim that rear-end crashes are more frequent at these intersections is a temporary phenomenon. Ultimately, we all know that “rear ending” happens in many instances (icy roads), and is usually attributable to inappropriate driving.

Erroneous Charge #5: In his petition, Mr. Kleinschmidt says evidence indicates only 33% of photos taken result in citations, a statement that, again, misrepresents the facts.

FACT: This figure does not take into account the number of violations that are not appropriate for various reasons, such as ambulances and automobiles whose license plates are missing or obscured. The effectiveness of the cameras is clear, even locally, as incidents of running red lights has been reduced at the Hwy. 15-501 and Sage Road location.

Erroneous Charge #6: In his petition, Mr. Kleinschmidt claims ACS and other red light camera vendors have been sued for calibrating the timing of photographs to maximize the number of citations.

FACT: The relatively few lawsuits that have been brought against red light camera contractors have not involved this claim and have been on entirely different grounds. The majority of these lawsuits have involved constitutional issues and have been defeated in every case.

In a much-publicized lawsuit in San Diego, the city - not the vendor - was sued, and the only fault found was with the city for not exercising proper oversight of the red light camera program. This has not been the case in Chapel Hill, nor do I expect it to be.

Erroneous Charge #7: In his petition, Mr. Kleinschmidt lists concerns that "other methods of adjusting the timing of red and yellow lights would have been more effective at controlling red light violations, yet were not attempted."

FACT: Prior to the installation of cameras, the town engineers and the state did an engineering review at the two signal locations, which are controlled by the state. Before the cameras were installed, the timing of the yellow signal was set to North Carolina state standards, which require a longer yellow sequence at intersections where photo enforcement is used.

North Carolina standards exceed those set by the Federal Highway

Administration. The yellow light timing was increased at both intersections and the red light timing was set appropriately. The town also added back plates to make the traffic lights more visible. Furthermore, the town put an extra set of signs at camera approaches, warning drivers that the cameras were in use. N.C. standards only require one set of signs, but two sets were installed.

The Town of Chapel Hill needs to retain the current policy of using red light cameras to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, school children, the visually impaired and drivers. Move forward by continuing the job of improving the safety of our streets.

But was there a distinct segment of those unpaid lobbyists that have another axe to grind?

In fairness, you should also add thet they have also heard from people who support the program and are NOT paid to do so!

First of all, I like red light cams when the same offender constantly repeats the offence. However, if its some one that ran a red light the first time and did not mean it. They should be given a warning first before handing out fines or legal judgement. It is important that warning are issue first saying "Hay please stop running red lights you could hurt someone."

Now, if some one ran a red light and injure someone that is another story all on its own. I don't condone running red lights but if its someones first time then they should be warn first. Or it was a accident and didn't mean to run the red light. Some times people are going to work and are not really awake and they are running on auto pilot.

Some times the yellow light switches too sudden and you have no time to stop. The second the yellow light changes to red your already at the edge of the intersection just before crossing it and the cam snaps, too quick.

In some places, it is hard to see a light traveling at 55 or 60 MPH from a distants. Expecially, when the road is in a slow curve. There should be warning signs when yellow light are flashing before the light to give enough time to stop. And some early warning.

My point in some places you must give earily warning to motorist before you complain about someone running a red light by accident. I have a hard time beliving that people runs red lights just because. Only the serious criminals runs red lights.

Mr Doody, would you please tell us specifically what you are talking about? Blocs? Attacks? Political organizations? Coached?

Does Buffalo Bob know that you appear to be tangled up in the strings that control your ability to communicate?

Yikes! From the Associated Press:

"McDonald Investments analyst Michael Keller, Monday downgraded ACS to "underweight" from "buy."

"In our view, market perceptions regarding ACS's corporate ethics are reaching, or perhaps reached, the tipping point," Keller said."


As far as alternatives, didn't you watch the whole presentation?

As far as the appeal, you pay a bond (they now call it a deposit) and then you get to appeal. More info on this link:

But, of course, you won't look as you really aren't interested in the facts, alternatives or even the RLCs, are you?

Why the hostility? Yes I watched the whole drama where the outcome was predetermined before the meeting started.

Note that I was talking about what we can afford and pay for - are all of the alternatives that I heard mentioned doable without additional spending?

Mr. Hill said, "They will send out as many as possible and the burden is on the car owner to prove he doesn't deserve it after he has paid the fine." Are you saying that a bond (deposit) is the same as what he said when he used the word "fine?" I think not. Another reason why words really do matter, and as a public official he should strive to be accurate.

It's interesting what happens here when people who are at least familiar with each other debate issues versus the cast of characters who desire to use their "other" name(s). As I only know the identity of one of these folks, I am left to wonder if it is even worth trying to have a discussion on a serious topic with the likes of Thalmus T. Hartdiddle, Howdy Doody or EPU.

Perhaps if you tried to judge the facts (not the FACTS as represented by some on this thread as taken from ACS literature) rather than the names, you would learn a bit.

I am amazed at the quick formation of the pro-RLC bloc and their attacks on Cam and Mark. I don't recall anyone here -- even a wooden head like me -- attacking Dorothy (except to note that she herself admitted being coached by Blakey and Agnew), Ed, Jim (whose political organization wrote Council asking that he get special attention) or Edith (until Ruby started this thread).

From the cable view of this peanut gallery, there were several counter-agruements made that countered nothing by the pro-RLC bloc as they seemed to have been coached for a different debate.

Nice to put a face to the puppet master at ACS tho.

Mr. Hill, I was watching on channel 18 last night and it amazed me that you offered incorrect info in the prepared statement that you read even after it had been said that it was incorrect. Makes one wonder if you were even paying attention to what others were saying. Didn't the engineer say that the appeal comes before payment?

Yes, safe driving is bad for business, but as long as there are so many drivers who break the law, it will be a long time before these companies go out of business. One of the problems that you didn't mention is that the rear end collisions are usually caused by people going too fast in the first place and then can't stop when the person ahead of them doesn't blow off the light. Not only do they get a ticket, but hopefully they get to pay a higher insurance bill.

I await the solution that you and the other RLCs opponents come up with to keep this job in the hands of the appropriate people. We have a speeding problem, we have a red light problem, and we have a shortage of financial resources problem. The third problem doesn't help solve the other two, so are you guys going to raise taxes to hire more appropriate people to cite violators?

Please tell us what you are for rather than just what you are against!

I was there and heard everything that was said.

Bottom line, the Council made a decision and now has a lot of work to do on intersection safety after eliminating one tool.

We'll leave it to town leadership now to follow through on the commitments made last night.

What I said was:"These red light camera companies issue citations to ambulances, police cars, fire engines and funeral processions, as well as to car owners who were not driving their cars at the time of the violation. Their motivation is to issue citations, not to increase safety." I did not say ACS in Chapel Hill had done argument was and is that these companies (including ACS) are about citations. They will send out as many as possible and the burden is on the car owner to prove he doesn't deserve it after he has paid the fine. They will issue tickets for what most of us do not consider a violation (too short trigger times). They choose intersections where folks actual speed is greater than the posted speed to maximize violations. AS I HAVE SAID REPEATEDLY "SAFE DRIVING WILL BE BAD FOR BUSINESS." I do not feel that this is an appropriate job to hand to a private company. It is that simple

Howdy Doody - apology accepted.

It was the Professor from UNC who spoke about the election math, not me...I liked it though! My math is very good in fact.

By the way, as I was there at the Council meeting the entire time, folks should know that Edith, Ed, Jim and Dorothy did a great job of getting the facts out, and handled themselves very professionally.

The one with the biggest problem getting the facts straight was Cam - what a joke! Who wrote his script, Bill Strom? Cam actually claimed that a hearse had been ticketed!

Mr./Ms. Doody--there is no need to insult Mr. Clapp.

Why can't we stick to critiquing ISSUES?

Melanie See

Congrats to WillR--you made a very good, convincing presentation!

I do indeed owe an appology to Bobby Clapp. Clarabell was making too much noise for me to hear the Council show clearly last night. That's my excuse anyway.

It was another speaker, David ???, who made some outrageous claims about voting and representation using poor math.

Our luck and our good Council. Despite PR flack Leslie Blakey and ACS CEO Clark both attending to shore up their side and despite Bobby Clapp's inability to do math when trying to explain how many voters elected our Council, the cameras are on the way out.

A big Peanut Gallery cheer to the 5 Council members voting rationally and wisely for actual safety-minded solutions to our traffic problems. Mayor Foy, Kleinschmidt, Greene, Hill, and Strom.


Thanks to you and others who have done such good work resisting this insult to our community. You are doing us all a great service.


Mark, thank you for the kind words. The best thanks I could ever

receive is your attendance tomorrow. I hope to see you there.


Citizen, Chapel Hill, NC

In the end, it's now up to the Council. They have to weigh through all of this.

Let's hope that the Council weren't all snowed by Blakey and Agnew and their benefactor, Clark of ACS when they were in town.

If you can't get to the meeting you might read this from the AAA.

"AAA recommended today that local jurisdictions considering red-light cameras should first apply all practical traffic engineering countermeasures."

I don't mean to be a wooden head, but it's pretty easy to read what I'm saying and what I'm not.

If you were so well read on pedestrian safety, you would have read this:

from the Federal Highway Administration. Yes, Right On Red kills pedestrians as serious federal studies (not those paid for by ACS) show. Yes there are alternatives that actually help save pedestrians lives -- particularly our children. Read 'em and become wiser. If you care about pedestrian safety that is. If your only aim is a by-jimminy whiz-bang system that even ACS was saying is a test system to the folks in Philadelphia less than 6 months ago, we will know more about you. Keep taking their data, their PR releases, their charts and their speakers that they fly in as the gospel. I wait to see if you are as you assert concerned about safety.

Who's pulling your strings? Most likely your own ambitions and your odd desire to attack Mr. Kleinschmidt.

Real safety comes not from cameras and sell-outs.

Mr. Clapp, I can see where Howdy Doody's remarks have upset you, don't let him or her get you down.

As far as your repeated call that the debate is about the local government's responsibility for safety, you've actually stumbled into the correct realm.

I want improved safety at ALL our intersections using techniques that are PROVEN to work by UNBIASED research. I especially want solutions that REDUCE all classes of intersection-related accidents, not just the NARROW class the RLC system does. Further, I want these alternatives because they PRESERVE our civil protections, unlike the current program. Finally, these alternatives can not be RIGGED in a corrupt fashion to generate invalid citations.

If you are interested in safety, why not call for the removal of the RLCs which are implicated in a decrease in our LOCAL safety and its replacement with proven, reliable, long-term beneficial ALTERNATIVES that remedy all type of problems with our intersections?

If you are interested in our community, why don't you chose alternatives that conserve our civil protections, don't fall PREY to rigging and operate out of the shadows (unlike the current program)?

With all the negatives of the RLC, why, simply, do you keep insisting that the RLC program is the best solution?

I don't mean to be dense, but I don't understand how the red lights, which have been intentionally placed at low-incidence intersections (for research purposes), potentially prevent any accident. Do you really think those jerks who speed and talk on the phones are really going to care if they get a civil penalty? I've looked at the data too and I understand from Dr. Hummer that the actual prevention data is not clear--in other localities the RLCs have been placed at intersections where there was such a high incidence that it was impossible to attribute lowered incidence to the RLCs alone. That's why Dr. Hummer petitioned the council to let him study the RLCs at Chapel Hill's low incidence intersections. Before the council makes a decision on this, I think we need to ask the following questions:

1. What will Dr. Hummer's data provide in terms of policy making decisions for Chapel Hill?

2. What other preventive steps could be taken to reduce the number of traffic incidences (all incidences) that might be just as effective and more acceptable to the community? Is this the best solution or merely the easy one?

3. What happens to Chapel Hill data after the tapes are viewed? If there isn't a very clear provision for the protection of the data (tapes, etc.) with severe penalties for violation of those provisions, then either the council needs to rewrite the contract or cancel the contract altogether.

One more fact for you to consider:

"The last fatal accident at the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Erwin Road occurred on Dec. 16, when a truck rear-ended a car that was already stopped at the stoplight."

For those who poo-poo rear end collisions, this should wake you up. The cameras didn't catch this tragedy. The quote is from the Chapel Hill Herald January 25, 2004.

for more about ACS proven technology and methods.

The accident in question actually occurred on Dec. 13. The Jan. 25 story got the date wrong and is being corrected in tomorrow's paper.

The original story on the accident appeared on Dec. 14 and is available (to Herald-Sun/Chapel Hill Herald subscribers only) at

A follow-up story reporting the charges against the trucker involved in the crash is available (also to subscribers) at

It's interesting how you share several blanket statements, then make an entry stating "one more fact."

You haven't presented many facts in your entries (for example, if I read correctly, your solution to road safety is no right on red?). Links to newspaper articles, and broad unsubstantiate accusations simply reflect a personal bias. And you are TOTALLY out of your league talking about rumble strips, interesection re-engineering and the like...

This business you raise of people being "compromised by ACS and their PR firm...nothing can change that.." is just more conspiracy theory (emphasis on THEORY). Most of us are smart enough to think for ourselves, not through the media or a PR firm for that matter. And by the way, here are just a few organizations which support the use of Red Light cameras at intersections:

-Mothers Against Drunk Driving

-Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

-National Center for Bicycling and Walking

-National Safety Council

-Insurance Institue for Highway Safety

Many, including me, have read the resolution and know EXACTLY what it says, but that's not what the debate is about. The debate is fundamentally ABOUT the responsiblity of local (and I emphasize LOCAL) government to sustain sound policy in the interest of the public's safety.

The accident you reference at 15-501 is indeed unfortunate, but the tragedy had everything to do with someone entering the interesection too fast, not someone driving with proper caution. Your example is only periferal to the Red Light debate. Maybe you should check out "" since you seem to prefer such scientific sources. A Oct. 31, 2001 article describes where a mother of 3 was killed at the Sage and 15-501 Intersection "when the Volvo in which she was riding collided with a 2000 Chevy Blazer..." This of course happened prior to the installation of Red Light cameras which could (I emphasize COULD) have favorably impacted behavior on that date.

We can always find examples of tragedies on our roads. Red Light cameras are a responsible, proven, simple, low cost safety measure available to us.

While your aims may be high, you have been compromised by ACS and their PR firm. Nothing can change that.

That is not corruption, as far as we know, but it is extremely bad judgement.

Red light cameras are about billing violators. Not about safety. If they were about promoting safety, ACS would be out of business by now.

Pedestrian friendly intersections have less violators or they can be reengineered for safety including longer delays, rumble strips, and clearing visual paths. History in other towns shows that cameras are not placed at such intersections because they do not generate enough revenue.

The most proven way to protect pedestrian injuries is to eliminate right on red. Would you take that step? It's very inexpensive and very effective.

The issue being decided is indeed the contract that the Town has with ACS. That is the vote that will be taken once the ice clears.

The vote will not be about safety or even a false good feeling about safety. It will be whether to continue the relationship with ACS. Read the resolution.

And I cannot believe that you can without a wooden face assert that the technology is proven. Here it has been proven not to work with a hoot.

You are missing the point. You seem to be focused on some sort of conspiracy theory here. The issues are (1) safety at intersections, (2) using proven technology and (3) a contractual relationship between the city and a company (any company) to provide the service. The issue is not who the town contracts with or the myriad of unstustantiated accusations your a making.

I respect all of our Council members' ethics and it is unfair to charge them with some form of "corruption" as you seem to be doing.

Fundamentally, the Town of Chapel Hill needs to retain the current policy of using red light cameras to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, school children, the visually impaired and drivers. Thye need to move forward (not backward) by continuing the job of improving the safety of our streets. I believe we (that grass roots group you have been diparaging) are sticking to the facts

The grass is green and growing here.

Todd and Bobby and others,

Here is the lengthy and deep report from the Weekly Standard

The Washington Times and AAA have a lot to say about the DC experience too

And the Chapel Hill experience of having the PR firm take over is not unique as this Philadelphia story shows

and in Pennsylvania, there was a strong web of connections between elected officials, lobbyists and staff as noted in the lovely graphic

We've seen the pattern. And it should not be repeated here.

Couldn't you just post the links to your letters that you sent to every paper all saying the same thing?

Howdy Doody, at least his post is full of facts rather than your hot air huff and puff.

Mr. Clapp,

You try to refute claims that I didn't make.

Are you saying that representatives from Blakey and Agnew did not have contact with the Council members and that Agnew was not in town and even in the building during the meeting?

I notice that you are not. Because the PR firm did come down and provide information to Verkerk at her admission as reported by all local papers.

Are you saying that the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running is not founded by ACS and run by Blakey and Agnew from their DC offices?

I notice you are not. Because the Campaign was founded and initially funded solely by ACS and is still run by Blakey.

Are you saying that the CEO of ACS didn't drop everything and come to Chapel Hill to defend what is being passed off as an experiment?

I notice you are not because he spoke to the very few on Saturday.

Facts have been widely and nationally reported by such papers as Todd would even approve of -- the Weekly Standard and the Washington Times. See the links above.

Mr. Clapp,

Your own roots may be grassy, but like it or not ACS pulled the strings on the press conference and the teach-in.


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