Memphis police director Larry Godwin says he's warning his son and daughter to pay extra attention to red lights from now on.
"My kids drive my vehicles, and they're pretty good drivers, but things happen," Godwin says. "If they borrow my car and run a red light, I'll get the ticket."
The city recently began installing 24 red-light cameras at 13 intersections, chosen for having the highest accident rates. The first two cameras, one at Riverdale and Winchester and another at Germantown Parkway and Trinity, have already begun snapping pictures of vehicles running red lights.
By the end of November, all the cameras should be active. Some intersections will have cameras in both directions while others will have them in only one direction.
For the first 30 days, drivers who run red lights at the intersections with cameras will receive a warning. Once that warning period is over, each violation will result in a $50 fine.
Godwin says the cameras will not only reduce accidents, they'll also free patrol officers who monitor high-crash intersections.
"We know where those intersections are, and sometimes we go write tickets there in our down time. Now those officers can use that time for more proactive policing," Godwin says. "When you observe someone running a red light, you've got to go catch them and pull out in front of traffic. It's just dangerous."
Once a car enters the intersection under a red light, the camera will shoot video of the car as it runs the light. Godwin says the cameras will not take pictures of cars running yellow lights.
The video will be fed into a network hub operated by American Traffic Solutions in Scottsdale, Arizona. License plate information will be obtained from the video and used to collect information about the person the car is registered to. A Memphis police officer will view the video to determine if a violation was made.
If so, a ticket will be mailed to the address belonging to the car's license plate, and the offender will be allowed to view an online video of their vehicle running the light.
The city of Germantown has operated six red-light cameras at four intersections since 2002. The city has had an average 25 percent drop in traffic accidents. But the cameras haven't stopped all offenses.
"Some people still run red lights. It's like they just don't get it," says Germantown assistant city administrator Andy Pouncey. "When the fine is $50, that doesn't bother some people. It's just like a parking ticket for them."
Pouncey says the city of Germantown issues about 700 to 800 tickets every month to people who run stop lights with cameras. When the cameras were first installed, Pouncey says quite a few drivers tried to contest the tickets, but that doesn't happen as often now.
"If a guy says he wasn't driving, we tell him to give us an affidavit that says who was driving. If they're not willing to do that, then they have to take responsibility," Pouncey says.
Though some drivers may attempt to contest the tickets in the beginning, Godwin believes the new Memphis red-light cameras will eventually result in fewer crashes and fewer tickets.
"I think this is going to make citizens more responsible," Godwin says. "Red-light cameras make all of us aware of what we should be doing, and it will make a big difference in crashes in our community."