Will They be Turned on Again?

Like any major city, Houston has its share of motorists who can't stay put when the traffic light turns red. But that can often result in serious accidents.

Enter American Traffic Solutions. The Arizona based company is the largest provider of red light safety cameras in the country. As a client, Houston saw a decrease in accidents at intersections notorious for mishaps.

Last November, voters passed a referendum to turn the cameras at 50-intersections off.

Recently, ATS asked Houston Police to pull accident statistics at those intersections. Charles Territo is spokesman for the company.

"Not only had potential violations gone up, but crashes had gone way up. Overall, crashes had increased by 137-percent since the cameras had been turned off. And in major crashes, crashes that involved injury or serious property damage, had gone up by 350-percent."

Three intersections beat that alarming statistic: Accident rates at I-10 at Uvalde and I-45 at Wayside, went up 700-percent. But the biggest increase was at West Rd and I-45, where accidents had gone up 13-hundred percent.

Ray Hunt is vice president of the Houston Police Officers Union. He says he's not surprised by the numbers.

"The red light runners cause a serious, serious safety hazard for everybody in Houston, and watching this on video and watching yourself go through that intersection, and seeing how close your were to causing an accident, it changes the behavior."

While T-bone accidents have gone up, the number of rear end accidents did increase when red light cameras were in use.

Houston bail bondsman Michael Kubosh led the affront to turn the cameras off. He calls them nothing more than a money making venture.

"If they would have come out and say look, this is really a revenue source, who knows, maybe they would have actually got the citizens to vote for this camera scam."

Officer Hunt with the HPOU, disputes that claim.

"The evidence is irrefutable, you can see yourself run it. And as a by product, the revenue that's brought in is being brought in from persons who are intentionally violating the law."

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Still to be decided, how much the City of Houston must pay to break its contract with ATS, which is set to expire in three years. Once again, bail bondsman Michael Kubosh:

"This could really turn out really bad for ballot organizers if the judge throws out this election, and I just pray to God he doesn't restrict the fact that the citizens have a right to organize and to vote, whenever their leadership won't do it."

Last Friday, Federal Judge Lynn Hughes tossed the results of the November referendum, saying that the way the issue was presented on the ballot violated the city charter covering the appeal of the ordinance. 

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