Northwood motorists may soon be out $90 in a flash - the flash of the camera that caught them speeding or running a red light.
Northwood's first red-light cameras were slated to be up and running this week for a testing period at the intersections of Woodville and Lemoyne roads, and Wales and Oregon roads.
"Our hope is that putting big signs up that say the intersection is photo-enforced will deter folks from speeding and running red lights," said Sgt. Doug Hubaker of the Northwood Police Department. "We think it's the safest method to enforce traffic at those two intersections."
He said two cameras were installed to monitor each side of Woodville at Lemoyne because of the intersection's proximity to three of the Northwood Local schools, the amount of traffic crashes there, and citizen complaints.
Sergeant Hubaker said the cameras are needed because there is a large volume of traffic at that intersection. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation's 2000 study of the Woodville and Lemoyne intersection, about 34,000 cars pass by in a 24-hour period.
A third camera will watch eastbound Wales, and the last will monitor northbound Oregon because Sergeant Hubaker said that intersection also has a high amount of traffic crashes. He said there were 305 car accidents in Northwood last year, down from 371 crashes in 2003, and almost 20 percent of those crashes each year occurred at the two intersections the cameras will monitor.
The cameras were installed by Redflex Traffic Systems, the same company that oversees the program in Toledo and Sylvania Township.
Northwood City Council approved entering into the contract with Redflex in September, and Redflex absorbs all the costs of installing the system and takes 75 percent of the revenue.
The city is responsible for purchasing warning signs for the intersections, and may need to pay for some electrical work, but has no major expense, City Administrator Pat Bacon said. She said Northwood will receive 25 percent of the fines, which will go into the city's general fund.
Council decided in mid-October that the fine for running a red light or speeding will be $90, which Sergeant Hubaker said is the same amount motorists would receive if a police officer issued them a speeding ticket. If the fine is not paid in 21 days, there will be a $100 penalty.
"It's not as much of a money-maker for us - it's just a safety issue," Ms. Bacon said. "It's a deterrent. We're just trying to prevent an accident."
The plan was for Northwood's cameras to be activated this week, but motorists can rest easy knowing that for the next 30 days, the cameras will be in a testing period to prepare officials to start issuing citations, said Joe Moore, Redflex customer service representative.
He said the testing period is necessary to allow the bugs to be worked out and to give time for letters to reach residents introducing them to the new cameras.
Sergeant Hubaker said city officials plan to re-evaluate the cameras after they have been in use for a while to determine whether other city intersections would benefit from them.
"In Toledo, crashes at intersections [with red-light cameras] dropped dramatically," he said. "We're hoping for a dramatic drop in our number of crashes."
In Toledo, red-light cameras at six of 13 intersections were retrofitted to catch speeders in August.