published Friday, July 25th, 2014

Fast times on Germantown road: New traffic cams nab thousands

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    Cars zip past a new speed camera on Germantown Road. The camera has been making significant money on fines since its installation.
    Photo by Logan Foll.
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A traffic camera on a busy stretch of Germantown Road between Interstate 24 and Brainerd Road is keeping local mailmen busy.

Since its installation on March 24 the camera has caught 17,549 instances of speeding, an average of about 145 per day, in an area where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

Police officers review footage from the device before the information is processed through a third-party company and citations mailed to violators notifying them that they owe $50.

The Germantown Road camera produced 2,000 citations — about 250 per day — in its first eight days, said Chattanooga city traffic engineer John Van Winkle.

Speeding has steadily decreased in the area since then, Van Winkle said. For city officials, that means the device is doing its job in a spot where crash rates are above statewide averages for similar streets.

“The purpose of these cameras is to improve driver behavior, and the side benefit of it generating revenue is not being used to balance the budget but to support a much-needed driver’s education program,” Van Winkle said. “And we feel in both respects that it’s a good thing.”

Drivers such as Robert Spence are not as fond of the camera placement, which is one of five like it across the city in addition to a pair of red-light cameras.

Spence said that within a matter of days his wife received three tickets in the mail because of the Germantown Road camera. They chose to pay their $150 tab through the mail as opposed to online or downtown at the Hamilton County Courts Building.

“If it’s 30 miles per hour, you don’t have to do anything but put your foot on the gas to go 30 miles per hour,” Spence said. “Let’s be realistic.”

Naomi Dedmon drives the route every day and has been ticketed by the camera, but she said she is not opposed to the idea of it. But she said the signs warning drivers of the camera need to be more visible, and she added that 40 miles per hour would be a more reasonable speed limit.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it necessarily,” Dedmon said. “I think it is a pain but I get the reason why people who live there want it there.”

The stretch of Germantown Road targeted by the camera is a residential area that collects traffic from a variety of sources. It is near the Interstate 75 and Interstate 24 split, has its own I-24 interchange and is an oft-used corridor between Ringgold and Brainerd roads.

The Scenic City has found success with the strategic use of traffic cameras in the past. When placed on the S-curves of Hixson Pike the number of accidents decreased to just two in 2011 compared to 100 in 2001, Van Winkle said.

Two other photo speed reduction units were activated around town on March 24, but they have not produced nearly the number of citations as the one on Germantown Road.

A device placed at 4600 Norcross Road in a residential area near Gadd Road off Highway 153 has generated 2,138 citations, while one in the 1100 block of Mountain Creek Road has produced 220.

All told, the three new cameras have generated 19,907 citations over four months.

The Hamilton County Commission reversed an initial vote in February that would have allowed the sheriff’s office use of two similar cameras. Greg Beck was the lone commissioner to stick by his vote and said Thursday he would vote to allow the cameras again if the issue arose.

“It’s the future and the future is here,” Beck said. “It’s another way to control traffic and make sure the community is safe.”

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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