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Enforcement hurdles await for red light cameras now active in Colorado Springs

Posted: 7:22 PM, Apr 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-09 21:39:22-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – Red light cameras at two busy Colorado Springs intersections are now tracking drivers 24 hours a day looking for violations. The cameras are installed at the intersections of Platte Avenue and Chelton Road and at Lexington Drive and Briargate Boulevard and began operation at midnight Tuesday. For the next 30 days, vehicle owners who violate the light will be issued warnings. After May 9, the city will begin issuing tickets.

Leaders at the Colorado Springs Police Department entered a contract with vendor Verra Mobility (formerly American Traffic Solutions) to install the cameras in response to the record 48 traffic fatalities in our city last year. Program administrator Lt. Cari Graves told reporters last week that she believes cameras can be force multipliers that encourage the public to slow down and be safer drivers.

“The requirement to obey the law is there, whether it’s enforced or not. So, all this is is just enhance enforcement, it really does make it safer,” Graves said.

Colorado law considers red light cameras and speed cameras to be Automated Vehicle Identification Systems (AVIS.) The statute governing the use of these cameras limits the maximum fine to $75. The tickets will not be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and drivers who pay the fines or are otherwise convicted will not lose points on their license. Additionally, law enforcement agencies who use AVIS cannot suspend or revoke the licenses of drivers who fail to pay the fines.

“An officer will review every violation to make sure that it occurred before any of the violations are sent out,” Graves explained.

Attorney Mike McDivitt believes a majority of people who get a citation in the mail will do the right thing and just pay the fines. However, he believes the city attorney’s office has more work to do to prove that someone who was ticketed actually ran the light.

“If a person came to me and wanted my advice as a lawyer, I’d have to give them the same advice I just gave to you; you don’t really have to pay that $75. But on the other hand, maybe you prefer to not have to deal with these folks,” McDivitt said.

City code requires the registered vehicle owner to be personally served with a summons and complaint within 90 days of the violation in order for the case to go to court. State law allows the city to bill suspected violators for the cost of paying that process server.  However, McDivitt explained there are additional legal hurdles facing city prosecutors seeking conviction for AVIS violations.

“They have to prove that you got adequately served and that there is corroborating evidence that you were the one driving the car and ran the red light with that license plate,” McDivitt said.

The service requirement of state law can hamper enforcement efforts for traffic camera citations.  The Denver Post reported in February nearly 40 percent of the roughly 179,000 citations issued by Denver police for both red light and photo-radar (speeding) violations went unpaid. The most frequent unpaid tickets were canceled due to a failure to serve the penalty notice. Other tickets were dismissed because the person ticketed was not the pictured driver or the citation simply expired.  Less than one percent of tickets that went to court and were dismissed.

Additional red light cameras are planned for the intersections of Dublin and Academy and North Carefree and Academy later this year. CSPD may decide to install cameras at six additional intersections at a later date.