If you ask the people who run it, the city's red light camera program, aka SafeLight, has been a tremendous success. They cite statistics maintained by the program showing the number of crashes at intersections has dropped by more than half, from 115 to 57 per year, and that the number of red-light related fatalities at those locations have dropped by two-thirds, from one per year to one every three years.
Corresponding numbers for all intersections show a more modest decline, but Donzell Gipson, an assistant director at DPD, said it's clear the program is working. When people see the statistics, they understand, he said.
But for the vast majority of people who haven't seen the stats, or maybe don't care to, the SafeLight program is a tough sell. Maybe it's that the cameras don't distinguish between blazing through a red and doing a California stop while making a right turn. Maybe it's that the cameras result in 10,000 citations per month that would not otherwise be written. Or maybe its the Big Brotherness of putting up cameras to keep an eye on people as they go about their lives. Whatever the case, it's safe to say the red light camera program is universally reviled.
The SafeLight program and the Automated Red Light Commission that oversees it have been working to combat negative perceptions since its inception (see: Safelight Dude). Now, it's making a more concerted effort. Today is first meeting of the ARLC's newly formed marketing committee .
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Gipson said "marketing" probably isn't the best term. It's more of an effort to improve public awareness efforts that are already in place. SafeLight representatives already go to schools, community meetings and public events to remind people of red light safety and highlight the program's success. They just want to do more of it.
It's to bolster those efforts that SafeLight is accepting donations. That's right. If you felt that $75 ticket you got in the mail wasn't quite large enough, you can now voluntarily pay more. You need only go to the Dallas Foundation's website, enter your credit card information, and choose how much you want to donate (minimum $25).
Gipson said the idea isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. The idea of taking donations came when relatives of someone killed in a red light accident approached SafeLight with the intention of giving money to promote red light awareness. The problem was, there wasn't really a mechanism through which SafeLight could accept donations. Now there is. The commission is also developing rules that would allow them to turn donated goods into cash.
This doesn't mean SafeLight will be going door to door begging for money, Gipson said. It just gives people a venue to donate if they feel so inclined. No one, Gipson said, is expecting an avalanche of cash.