Red light cameras for safety or money?

Missouri lawmakers are thinking about banning red light cameras.

The cameras automatically take pictures of red light runners.

The City of Columbia has been using these cameras since September to ticket traffic offenders.

Since the first camera flash, Columbia red light cameras have caught about 1,100 red light runners.

Quite honestly, a lot of the times you TMll see the driver that goes through a red light, their face will be one of these numbers where you know they are talking on the phone, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.

At $120 a pop, that's $132,000 in fines collected, so far. The city only gets $80 of each ticket. The rest goes to the company who installed and maintains the cameras, a company called GATSO.

Violators may fight the ticket they get from the cameras, but the courts can fine them up to $500.

According to GATSO, it costs them about $100,000 per intersection to put one in," St. Romaine said. "I can tell you, that they have not even begun to recover their costs on that, yet.

Right now, the city has 5 cameras up and running. In the next year, GATSO hopes to more than triple that number to 16 cameras.

Below is a map of installed red light cameras and cameras that are being considered to be installed.

More cameras means more tickets and more money.

Columbia city officials said it TMs not about the penalties and fines. They said it TMs all about safety when red light cameras catch reckless drivers.

Besides being one of the most dangerous traffic violations, it's also one of the hardest for police to catch because it's dangerous for officers to follow red light runners through the intersection.

They actually accelerate to go through the intersection," Columbia police officer Jessie Haden said. "When that happens, that can create what we call a T-bone accident where the front end of the car running the red light runs into the driver TMs side of a car going through the intersection, or the passenger side. Those T-bone accidents can be some of the most dangerous that can occur.

City officials said the cameras are making streets safer and actually catch fewer violators the longer they are in place. In the beginning, each of the five cameras caught upwards of 10 red light runners a day. After a couple of months, that number dropped to about three citations per camera per day.

The number of red light violations per day, per approach, is certainly starting to trend down and is leveling off, St. Romaine said.

Red light camera citations do not show up on your official driving record. That means you won't lose points on your license and your insurance rates won't go up. Columbia city officials can always prove you were driving through a red light, because they have something not every city has, an extra camera that takes the driver TMs picture.

The Missouri Senate recently added a ban on red light cameras to their transportation bill.

State leaders predict that ban will be removed from the bill before they pass a final version.