They are every motorist’s worst nightmare and Star Valley’s best friend. Bringing in more than $1 million a year, photo enforcement cameras in this small town have kept the Star Valley budget balanced.
So sometime in April, drivers can expect to see two more photo enforcement cameras.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mayor Bill Rappaport announced Redflex, the company that runs the system, will install two more cameras near Moonlight Drive and Circle K.
The camera at Moonlight will point east and the camera at Circle K will point west.
The town decided to install the extra cameras after noticing an increase in traffic accidents at those locations, Rappaport said.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office has reported eight accidents in Star Valley since January, including one outside Circle K and at least three at Moonlight and Highway 260. The other accidents centered mainly along Highway 260 within town limits.
Although the existing cameras each day catch an estimated 100 drivers speeding 11 mph or more over the posted 45 mph speed limit, drivers continue to speed through town, Rappaport said.
Often drivers are aware of the cameras and slow down, but then speed up quickly, creating a safety issue for residents exiting side streets and businesses. Moonlight is an especially busy street with a number of neighborhoods connecting to it.
Rappaport said he was always a proponent of having four cameras in town.
Recently while campaigning, Rappaport said everyone said they favored more cameras.
While Rappaport maintains the “revenue-neutral” cameras are used strictly to improve safety, the additional money is “icing on the cake.”
When the cameras were first installed in January 2008, the town estimated the system would generate 2,000 tickets annually, on a stretch of highway that carries 10,000 cars a day.
However, the cameras quickly captured more speeding motorists than anyone expected. By April 2008, the town had an additional $56,600 in its general fund.
For fiscal year 2009-2010, the town is budgeted to put $1.3 million into its general fund from the cameras. So far, for the first seven months of the fiscal year, the camera revenue is $226,900 under budget for a total of $636,800.
The average number of tickets filed through the Gila County court was 1,459 November 2009 through January 2010. This averages out to 49 tickets a day.
Despite the addition of two new cameras, Rappaport said he doesn’t expect a noticeable spike in the number of tickets long-term. Initially, the cameras may catch drivers who are unaware, but as residents and Valley drivers become cognizant, they should slow down and the number of tickets will level off as well as the number of accidents.
According to the town’s Web site, “our primary focus is on intentional, aggressive and negligent drivers. Statistics tell us that at 10 mph over the posted speed limit, the probability of being involved in a crash doubles. However, at 20 mph over, the probability increases to 11 times greater.”
Unlike a radar system, sensors embedded in the pavement trigger the cameras in Star Valley when a driver is 11 mph over the speed limit.