South Chandler red-light cameras are the busiest SanTan Sun News

South Chandler red-light cameras are the busiest

South Chandler red-light cameras are the busiest
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Motorists moving through two south Chandler intersections are ticketed via red-light cameras at a rate more than three times higher at 10 other crossroads in the city with photo-enforcement.

For the last few years, drivers passing through Chandler had to watch their speed around certain intersections or risk getting caught on camera.

Data shared by local law enforcement shows some intersections have significantly more traffic violators than others.

According to numbers released by Chandler Police, drivers passing through the intersection of McQueen and Queen Creek roads received 8,376 tickets during a one-year period. The cameras at Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road issued the city’s second-highest number of tickets: 2,355.

Chandler’s ten other intersections with traffic cameras issued between 684 and 2,200 tickets during the fiscal year which ended June 30, 2018.

Chandler Police said the wide disparity between McQueen-Queen Creek and the other intersections might be explained by the lack of access to the Loop 202 from this region of Chandler.

McQueen and Gilbert roads are the only throughway’s to the freeway from the city’s southeast side, noted Detective Seth Tyler, and there are not many traffic signals to break up traffic around the McQueen-Queen Creek intersection.   

“At the end of the day, speeding is an issue on this roadway, it’s why the cameras are there,” Tyler said.

The city’s most recent traffic counts show McQueen-Queen Creek sees a fair number of cars each day, yet it does not appear to be the busiest intersection in Chandler.

On the average weekday, 19,300 cars pass through the intersection along McQueen Road and 10,800 cars pass along Queen Creek Road.

Arizona Avenue can have up to 21,700 cars passing through its intersection with Queen Creek Road. Ray Road averages 22,500 cars through the Dobson Road intersection, where 2,189 camera tickets were issued.

The Alma School and Ray roads intersection, which logged the least amount of traffic-camera tickets in 2018, has an average traffic volume ranging between 16,600 and 18,500 cars per day.

Chandler installed its first red-light cameras in 2000 at four intersections in the city’s northern region. Seven years later, a feature was added to the cameras allowing them to detect drivers violating speed limits.

In 2016, the city entered into a five-year contract with a new vendor, American Traffic Solutions, to deploy cameras at 12 of the city’s worst intersections for traffic accidents.

“This is a program to help the safety of citizens in a place where we could have some of the worst accidents and loss of lives and severe bodily injury to people who are unknowingly hit by red-light runners,” former Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said when the city council approved the new contract.

The total number of car crashes reported citywide has increased from 4,611 in 2016 to 4,715 in 2018, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. Chandler’s population grew by about 10,000 residents during the same time frame.

The number of accidents reported at the 12 intersections with traffic cameras varies.

The McQueen-Queen Creek intersection had 11 traffic accidents during the last six months of 2018; it recorded the lowest number of tickets among the 12 intersections. The 38 accidents at the Dobson-Ray intersection were the most mishaps at any intersection with camera enforcement.

Though law enforcement officials consider the cameras an effective method to make roads safer, they’re often unpopular among residents and politicians.

Ashley Beydler of Tempe often sees the cameras flashing at the McQueen-Queen Creek intersection and doesn’t think they do much to change driving behavior.

“Almost nobody seems to go the speed limit,” Beydler said. “Everyone always seems to be speeding over there just because they think they can.”

She got a red-light ticket in 2018 for passing through the intersection after leaving her family’s home in Chandler. Beydler completed a driving class and is warier now of which intersections have traffic cameras.   

Lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature have repeatedly tried and failed to ban red-light cameras in the state by calling the devices a form of “tyranny.”

The Phoenix City Council chose to deactivate its red-light cameras in 2019, fearing the program appeared to be too much of a “money grab.”

During the first year Chandler expanded its traffic cameras in 2016, the city lost $131,000 in expenses to operate the program. The following year, the city earned a profit of about $108,000. The city’s profits then increased to $178,099 in fiscal year 2019.

It cost the city $642,526 to administer the red-light cameras during the last fiscal year with about $300,000 paid to American Traffic Solutions.

Any profits the city earns from traffic cameras must be spent on safety initiatives like message boards alerting drivers of their speed.

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