CrimeTracker Investigation: Red light runners

Published: Nov. 4, 2014 at 2:12 AM CST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 4:56 PM CDT
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You may be a victim of one. If not, you've surely witnessed a driver running a red light and causing an accident. It happens at intersections all over the City of New Orleans, despite the installation of cameras designed to cut down on the offenses.

It doesn't matter the time of day or time of year. The intersection at Carrollton and Canal Street constantly sees people running red lights.

"This is a dangerous intersection," said driver James Thomas.

"We're seeing speeding being an issue in areas, we're seeing distractions being an issue for accident related crashes," said NOPD Lt. Anthony Micheu, who heads the department's traffic division.

Last year, the camera on the southbound side of North Carrollton captured 9,600 violators. On the other side, eastbound Canal at South Carrollton, there were another 9,300. That's almost 19,000 citations issued just at that intersection alone. It's the most at any spot in the entire city.

"I'm not surprised at all, people do it constantly" said driver Michal Patterson. "Actually, my mom was hit in a car accident where someone ran their red light. It was an elderly couple and the car flipped over twice."

Another dangerous spot is Carrollton at Palmetto. Video provided by American Traffic Solutions shows some near-misses and unavoidable collisions. Since 2008 when the red light camera program started in New Orleans, that particular intersection has seen 41,000 citations issued.

"Minimum, I would say, is about $100 ticket," said Micheu.

The hit to the wallet doesn't appear to be slowing drivers down. About 2,500 more motorists received citations in the eastbound lane of Poydras at St. Charles in 2013 than in 2012.

"It's very dangerous," said one pedestrian. "I've worked at One Shell and Poydras Center, and people are trying to get by here real quickly maybe, out of the city, out of the CBD, I'm not sure what it is."

The red light runners pose a danger not only to other drivers but to bicyclists and pedestrians.

"There's a nature about people who drive here that doesn't necessarily always follow all of the traffic laws, so there is a bit of people running and then rolling through red lights. That's what I usually get, people rolling through the side when they're turning right and they'll just roll right into you and that is harmful," said bicyclist Bryan Lee.

In 2010, when a camera went up at South Carrollton and Banks Street, only 600 people received tickets. A year later, a sharp spike upward to 5,000. The numbers have stayed consistent, with thousands getting caught there every year.

Micheu points to an influx of new residents and continual growth in the city.

"I think the last statistic that I got is maybe a 39 percent traffic increase over the last couple years, which means there's a heavy volume of people in and out of the city," he said.

With 66 cameras around Orleans Parish, citations that are paid bring millions of dollars to the city.

Other intersections with the highest number of tickets issued include City Park Avenue at Canal Street, North Rampart at Esplanade, Wisner at Harrison and St. Charles Avenue at Louisiana.

"Every intersection in a city could be a bad intersection given a person's lack of respect for that particular signal, that particular traffic control," said Micheu.

Micheu said the only thing that will curb dangerous driving is paying more attention to the roads and putting down the cell phones and other distractions. And remember: although tempting, you most likely won't beat that yellow light.

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