Red light crackdown begins

MICHAEL FORBES AND TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014

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Drivers are running a red light once every two minutes at Wellington intersections. The junction of Courtenay Place and Tory St was the worst spot for drivers running red lights during the latest Wellington City Council study of 14 major intersections.

Over the course of an hour during peak time, council staff watched 28 motorists drive through red lights. That worked out to be about one law-breaking driver for every red light, said Paul Barker, the council's safe and sustainable transport manager. "It was just staggering."

Other hotspots were the intersection of Whitmore and Featherston streets and where Vivian St meets Cambridge Tce.

The Dominion Post spent an hour at the intersection of Tory St and Courtenay Place yesterday afternoon and saw 10 vehicles enter the intersection on a red light. At least two cars ended up on pedestrian crossings while pedestrians had a green light.

Tina Wieczorek, from the Public Bar in Courtenay Place, was not surprised to hear the intersection was one of Wellington's worst.

Traffic was often backed up a long way in Tory St and, when drivers got to the intersection, they were frustrated, she said.

Barker said the council study was done in 2011 but driver attitudes had not changed much since then. On average, 26 deaths or serious injuries result from intersection crashes in Wellington every year, which ranks the city among the five worst territorial authorities in the country.

The council and police launched a joint campaign to crack down on red-light runners yesterday.

Barker said he understood why some people ran red lights. "Because sometimes when you miss a [green] light the wait can be a long one.

"But when it goes wrong, the consequences are significant. Often it's the innocent parties who get smacked in the side by another car, or they're the pedestrians who step out."

Senior Sergeant Jason McCarthy, response manager for the Wellington area, said there would be more police at intersections over the coming months to accompany billboards and radio adverts during the campaign.

He did not know why red-light runners continued to be prevalent, but pointed out they were putting lives at risk for the sake of getting to the next red light a bit quicker.

Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said red-light running was an epidemic in Wellington, as it was in many parts of the country. The association's 1.3 million members were concerned about it, which was why the AA had been calling for widespread use of red-light cameras for some years now.

A trial of the cameras in Auckland in 2011 resulted in a 43 per cent decrease in red-light running and a 69 per cent decrease in crashes, Noon said.

Police have said they would install a "small number" of newer-generation red-light cameras before the end of the year.

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- The Dominion Post

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