ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — A social media post by the Elgin Police Department with some harsh words meant to bring attention to a big and potentially dangerous issue is going viral.
“There is absolutely no justification for running a light that has been red for 24 seconds,” the post made Tuesday evening says. In a video posted from a red light camera along US Highway 290 through the city, a driver can be seen speeding through a light that clearly has been red for some time. The driver appears to come inches from T-boning a pickup truck going the other direction.
“You should recall from Driver’s Education the yellow signal indicates you should begin slowing and prepare to stop, not speed up,” the post says.
The post goes on to chide people who might comment negatively about red light cameras.
“Nothing you can say will ever convince me the civil penalty this driver/vehicle owner will receive is not valid or warranted,” the post said. “If the next time they approach a red light, they stop because of it and you make it through the intersection safely, it was worth my time and their money.”
Elgin PD told KXAN that a sergeant doing a regular, daily review of the red light camera violations felt it was a textbook example of careless driving. The department reviews every violation before issuing tickets. Elgin PD reports that in 2014 they issued 11,491 of these violations, 11,722 in 2015 and 13,338 in 2016—in 2016 that equates to 36 tickets every day.
Police Chief Chris Bratton said while residents in town know where the red light cameras are, it’s the people from out of town who are the most common violators.
“I can’t tell you the number of times we cite drivers in that 50 mile-an-hour stretch at 75 and 80 miles-an-hour because they’re [saying] ‘It’s through town, no big deal, it’s not my town,’ they just quit paying attention,” Bratton said.
He says that the red light cameras have been a great investment for the department, over the last six years the amount of traffic going through Elgin has increased, the number of accidents at those intersections have stayed the same.
Bratton explained that on a monthly basis around 1.7 million people drive through Elgin. Recently between June 4 and June 11, the city issued 526 violations to those drivers.
“We really hope that by posting this video that it would raise awareness for people that this is not a, ‘Ha ha I got away with running a red light’ kind of situation, this is a serious situation, there are a lot of people at risk when those things happen or when you don’t pay attention to your driving,” Bratton said.
It’s a problem he believes has been made worse by the growing number of drivers distracted by their mobile devices. Bratton hopes that drivers consider the potential violations and human consequences of driving carelessly and ignoring stoplights.
“The drivers who have the right of way don’t expect anything bad to happen — and unfortunately they end up paying the price,” Bratton said.
In 2016, Round Rock authorities said, in the year since their red light cameras had been removed, crashes significantly increased. Officials say the cameras were not effective at preventing crashes or drivers from running red lights. They also say they could not enforce people to pay their fines. Instead, the city replaced the red light cameras with officer enforcement.
The Texas Legislature actually handled two bills this session that could have banned red light cameras across the state. They are currently in the Texas Senate Transportation Committee’s hands, not yet made law.
“Look twice before proceeding through a green light, you never know when drivers such as this one will come barreling into your life,” the EPD’s post concluded.