City Council not ready to commit to giving red light cameras the green light

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For now, red light cameras won’t be set up at Charlotte intersections.

City leaders discussed the controversial topic Monday evening. They weren’t going to abandon the issue, but couldn’t commit to them at the City Council meeting.

They said there's a culture of drivers running lights, so councilmembers were ready to end the proposal.

The unpredictability of others behind the wheel is why driver Randy Carr supports bringing back red light cameras

“Sometimes a lot of people have to die before something good comes along,” Carr said. “Until drivers get off their cellphones, put them up, there are too many people getting hurt.”

Twelve years ago, Charlotte leaders did away with red light cameras after the court of appeals ruled that 90 percent of the cameras' revenue had to be given to schools.

City manager Marcus Jones told council they can have them if they want them, but it’s not his recommendation because he said the data he had collected thus far did not support what the cameras aim to do.

“There are so many things happening right now that you may want to invest more in the future,” Jones said.

The city is trying to implement a national program called “Vision Zero,” and with it could come intersection, road and sidewalk improvements.

All of those options are more favorable to councilman Braxton Winston.

“Our first instinct should not be to criminalize our citizens,” Winston said.

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt believes the option should still be on the table because of how often people drive through red lights.

“If we prevent a couple people from being killed on their way to school, then I don't know, maybe it is worth it,” she said.

Another big holdup is the cost. Red light cameras could cost the city more than $1 million a year to operate and 90 percent of the ticketed funds would have to go to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The issue will come up again at a future meeting.

[RELATED: New survey finds support for red light cameras in Charlotte]

Drivers like Dolores Williams is tired of watching others run red lights.

“I hope they come back,” she said. “It'll save a lot of lives."

[RELATED: Red light cameras still an option, city leader says]

Williams is all for red light cameras to make a comeback to catch drivers breaking the law.

Since the cameras' 2006 discontinuation, there's been a push to bring them back -- but not everyone is for it.

"I think people can be held accountable without having cameras to enforce the law,” driver Kevin Quatro said.

[Charlotte red-light runners: 9 Investigates the growing problem]

Some people think the cameras could cause more rear-end collisions.

"I always obey the lights so it didn't affect me, but other people will see the light and go, 'Ooh, I gotta stop,’ and bam, slam on the brakes," driver Christy Rushing said.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is working on getting Channel 9 the most up-to-date number on red light citations. A Channel 9 investigation revealed the number of citations dropped 21 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Regardless of the numbers, Williams hopes City Council will consider installing cameras at least in one spot.

"Coming off the interstate, coming on to Beatties Ford Road. They run them like they're not even there,” Williams said.

Last year, Channel 9 investigated drivers running red lights. In about 20 minutes, there were 18 drivers who blew through one intersection in South End.

At the time, CMPD said red light violations were declining, but that could just mean fewer people were getting caught.