“Raising revenue isn’t the point here,” said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), who made the motion with Chairman Sharon Bulova (D). “It’s about safety.”
Fairfax had red-light cameras at 10 intersections but did away with them in 2005, when the General Assembly decided not to renew a law giving local jurisdictions the authority to use the cameras.
The legislation was reinstated in 2007, but Fairfax chose not to restart its program for financial reasons. By then, the county had sold its cameras.
Frey said he suggested bringing back the cameras because of a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that looked at intersections in Arlington County. It found that cameras there dramatically improved safety, Frey said.
Since Fairfax last had the cameras, the county’s population and road congestion have increased but traffic patrols haven’t kept pace, Frey said. “This could be a solution.”
Nearly all jurisdictions in the Washington region use redlight cameras. Arlington has four, which it installed in 2010. Alexandria and Fairfax City started programs in 2011.
The District has roughly 50 red-light cameras. Tickets run offenders $150. In Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, citations come with a $75 fine.
Under Virginia law, red-light camera tickets can’t exceed $50 and violations can’t be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance companies. State law also says that local jurisdictions must warn drivers with signs at intersections that have cameras and that cities and counties may have no more than one camera for every 10,000 residents.
Frey said Fairfax lost money operating the cameras because they were so effective: Within a year of them being installed in 2002, the number of violations dropped off markedly.
Over four years, the camera program cost the county roughly $1.3 million more than it generated.
Bulova asked staff workers to include new cost projections when they report back to the board.