Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter

CLEARWATER — The city will renew its red-light camera program at two of the city’s most dangerous intersections.

Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter asked the City Council on Oct. 14 to renew a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., to continue its Traffic Camera Safety Improvement Program through Oct. 30, 2024.

Redflex began the crash-reduction program with the city in 2012 at two of the city’s most dangerous intersections: Belcher Road and Gulf to Bay Boulevard, which is also known as State Road 60, and the junction of Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street.

“The intersections were selected because of serious injury crash data attributable to red-light violations,” Slaughter told the council. “Belcher and (State Road) 60 remains an intersection that has a higher rate of crashes than any other intersection in Clearwater. We definitely believe in doing anything we can to make that intersection as safe as possible.”

The contract renewal maintains the existing cost to the city, Slaughter said. The cameras and the software that operate sensors to trigger the still photos and videos of cars violating traffic laws costs $4,270 per approach per month, or $12,810 a month.

According to the contract, Redflex cameras capture images of vehicles and their license plates that run red lights or break other traffic laws. The system then sends the video to a city traffic enforcement employee who reviews the videos to reject or document the violations. When the violation is clear, the city sends a notice of violation to the car’s owner, giving him or her 60 days to pay or contest the violation.

Traffic fines the city collects using the system more than pay for the Redflex system, Slaughter said.

“We generate enough fees to cover that, because of the volume of cars that go through the intersections — some 19.4 million vehicles that go through these approaches each year,” he said. “Our compliance rate is 99.9 percent, so (there are) at least 17,400 violations, which is more than substantial to cover the expenses.”

City data bears this out: As of August, the city had collected $1.178 million in violation receipts, records show.

Rear-end collisions and other accidents at the two intersections have been reduced, Slaughter told the council, but he urged council members not to conclude the system is solely responsible for the decreases.

“The crash data shows that the crashes have been trending down, but I would be cautious in making any correlations to reductions and decrease in crash data.”

According to the city’s crash data, the approaches saw 17,694 violations printed in 2018; so far this year, there have been 10,102.

Interestingly, not every driver who sees a camera flash will receive a notice of violation, because the Redflex System rejects certain events, including running yellow lights or screeching stops where the driver does not cross out of the intersection.

The system calculates the speed of the vehicle and uses an algorithm that anticipates the car is about to run the light. If the driver arrives a little fast or suddenly brakes, it can trick the camera flash into going off.

When council member David Allbritton told Slaughter that he had set the camera flash off at Fort Harrison but had never received a violation, the chief stated for the record that traffic enforcement does not determine whether drivers are city officials or other politicians to keep them from receiving violations.

Even police officers are ticketed by traffic enforcement, Slaughter told the council.