Knightdale hopes to renew red-light cameras, protect itself from lawsuits

aspecht@newsobserver.comAugust 12, 2013 

Red-light cameras peer over the intersection of Knightdale Boulevard and Smithfield Road.

PAUL A. SPECHT - ASPECHT@NEWSOBS

  • Where they’re watching

    Red-light cameras are currently located in Knightdale at the following intersections:

    •  Knightdale Boulevard and Old Knight Road

    •  Knightdale Boulevard and Smithfield Road

    •  Knightdale Boulevard and McKnight Drive

    •  Knightdale Boulevard and Widewaters Parkway

    •  Knightdale Boulevard and Hinton Oaks Boulevard

— Local leaders want to keep red-light cameras at high-traffic intersections – but only if the camera-maker agrees to protect the town from legal liability.

Knightdale’s contract with Redflex, the Arizona-based red-light company, expires in October. But Mayor Russell Killen and Seth Lawless, Knightdale town manager, say the town will only sign a new long-term contract with Redflex if the company agrees to pay for legal costs the town might incur if someone challenges the cameras in court.

In 2010, an Apex man and a Cary woman sued Cary, saying they can’t obey red-light laws because yellow-light durations are inconsistent. A local Superior Court judge in January ruled in Cary’s favor, but the town had already unplugged the cameras because of their unpopularity.

Knightdale, Raleigh and Wilmington are now the only North Carolina cities still using red-light cameras. And, despite the judge’s ruling, Killen and Lawless aren’t convinced the legal challenges will stop.

“One loss does not necessarily dissuade folks from filing other lawsuits,” said Killen, an attorney. “And we don’t want to spend taxpayer money defending lawsuits.”

The odds of Redflex agreeing to fight Knightdale’s legal battles over the towns red-light cameras remain unclear. Redflex declined to answer specific questions on Friday when asked whether it has made similar agreements with other customers.

Jody Ryan, communications director for Redflex, instead released a statement on the company’s eagerness to continue working with Knightdale.

“We are always willing to work with our clients to find custom solutions that make their programs more effective for their community,” the Redflex statement said. “We will continue to work with (Knightdale) to find a creative solution for both our organizations.”

Both sides have incentive to strike a deal. Redflex currently receives $45 for every $50 citation.

Knightdale officials say the traffic safety implications – not the money – is why they’re hoping to keep the cameras mounted. According to data collected by the Knightdale police department, accidents at intersections with red-light cameras have decreased a total of 46 percent since 2003. At the Knightdale Boulevard-McKnight Drive intersection, for instance, accidents fell from 46 in 2003 to 20 in 2012.

“The proof is in the pudding. If it’s keeping our citizens safe, it’s hard to argue against keeping them,” said councilman Jeff Eddins, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

If Redflex doesn’t agree to protect Knightdale in the courtroom, “I don’t know what we’ll do,” Eddins said. “We’ll probably reach out to the public and ask their opinion.”

Specht: 919-829-4826

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