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Northwood: Car crashes in cameras' views down slightly

Crashes have declined - but not by much - since Northwood installed cameras at two intersections to catch red-light runners and speeders.

Northwood police said 303 car crashes occurred in Northwood last year, down from 306 crashes in 2004 and 368 in 2003.

No traffic fatalities have been recorded in Northwood since 2000.

Police Chief Jerry Herman said he was disappointed not to see a wider gap between the number of car crashes and said he blames it on adverse December weather.

"We were on track to be right around 285 crashes, and we had some really bad weather, and our accidents for that month almost doubled," he said.

The city's first red-light cameras began clicking tickets last year on Feb. 14 after a month-long testing period.

Two cameras monitor each side of Woodville Road at Lemoyne Road, a third camera watches eastbound Wales Road, and the last monitors northbound Oregon road because of the amount of traffic crashes at those two intersections.

After photo-enforcement started, nine car crashes occurred at Woodville and Lemoyne last year, up from 13 in 2004 but down from the 21 in 2003.

At that intersection in 2005, there were 11,858 speeding or red light violations in the eastbound direction and 5,885 in the westbound direction; 12,961 citations were issued, and the rest were thrown out.

Each violation burns a $90 hole in a motorist's pocket.

At Oregon and Wales, 21 crashes happened after photo-enforcement started last year, down from 22 in 2004 and 33 in 2003.

In 2005, that intersection logged 2,563 violations on Oregon at Wales and 7,837 on Wales at Oregon. There were 5,674 citations issued.

While Chief Herman needs more concrete data on how well the existing cameras are working before they consider installing more, he said he would like to see additional cameras at Curtice Road and Lemoyne and at Wheeling Street and Woodville.

Northwood has received nearly $300,000 from Redflex - the company that installs and maintains the devices - through Jan. 13. Redflex keeps 75 percent of the fines and gives the city the other 25 percent.

Camera revenue will pay for a $50,000 project that would create a continuous right-turn lane from eastbound Wales onto southbound Oregon. That should help, for example, motorists going south from I-75. Those mostorists will not have to stop at the intersection if they're in the far right lane, even with a red light.

With this modification, Northwood officials hope to decrease the number of red-light violations that occur there, City Administrator Pat Bacon said.

She said discussions have bseen made to use the revenue for other safety measures, such as a pedestrian overpass over Woodville and Lemoyne for students headed to the school, updated traffic signals in front of Lark Elementary School, and flashing lights denoting an emergency near the city's two fire stations.

"We're throwing around some ideas, and they're all related to safety," Ms. Bacon said. "Creating a safe environment for schools and fire stations we think is a good legitimate use for that money."

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