Council risking lives with red-light delay, says AA

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland Transport says the cameras have led to a 69 per cent drop in crashes. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland Transport says the cameras have led to a 69 per cent drop in crashes. Photo / Richard Robinson

Auckland Transport is under fire from the Automobile Association for failing to allocate early money for more red-light cameras with a proven safety record at dangerous intersections.

The council body says it remains committed to adding more cameras to its safety "tool kit", after noting a 69 per cent reduction in road crashes through red lights at 10 central Auckland test sites.

But it is waiting for the Government to roll out a national enforcement policy before allocating funds to extend cameras to other parts of the city.

That follows a missed deadline in April for the Ministry of Transport to finalise policy recommendations.

However, a spokesman for the ministry said yesterday that the task should be completed by the end of next month.

AA spokesman Simon Lambourne is, meanwhile, calling for Auckland Transport to "show leadership" and make an immediate allocation for more cameras, rather than continuing to wait.

Despite the impressive trial results, reported in September, there are only three cameras being rotated around 10 intersections.

"They are taking an exceedingly long time," Mr Lambourne said of the ministry's policy-makers.

"Because they haven't come up with a decision about how they want to treat these [cameras] elsewhere in the country, Auckland is suffering.

"There are lives at stake, and we cannot overlook such an important road safety tool," he said.

Although pleased that Auckland Transport has allocated about $126 million for road safety projects over the next three years, he was disappointed at a lack of specific provision for more red-light cameras until after 2015.

The agency has allocated $348,000 for new cameras for years 4 to 10 of the latest regional land transport programme.

But its road safety manager, Karen Hay, said there would be plenty of scope elsewhere in the budget to buy more cameras once a national enforcement policy was in place.

"Red-light cameras are an absolute priority from Auckland Transport's perspective as a road safety tool," she said.

In preparation for a wider roll-out, the organisation was assessing crash statistics at intersections throughout Auckland, to decide where to focus its safety efforts.

Ms Hay said it may be possible to transfer cameras to other intersections from trial sites "where we don't have red-light running as an issue any more", although that would have to be done in consultation with the police as the designated enforcement agency.

The Ministry of Transport spokesman said it had made significant progress towards a national policy on red-light cameras, but was still consulting key partners such as the police and the Transport Agency on final details.

It was drawing on a wide range of research, including from overseas and from the Auckland trial, to decide where cameras were likely to provide "cost-effective safety benefits" and who should be responsible for buying, installing and operating them.

Funding issues were also still being worked through, although the spokesman said officials expected to make policy recommendations by the end of next month to Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

The number of crashes caused by red-light running at the 10 intersections in the Auckland trial dropped from an average of 23.8 a year between 2001 and 2005 to just 7.3 from the start of the exercise in 2008 until the end of 2010.

There were no injury crashes in the later period at four intersections, including that of Symonds St and Karangahape Rd, where there were 14 crashes between 2001 and 2005, including one in which a person was killed.

But there was a small increase in crashes at the nearby intersection of Queen St and Karangahape Rd.

The former Auckland City Council initiated the trial, with support from regional and Government agencies, after recording 387 injury crashes caused by red-light runners at its intersection in the five years to 2005.

That accident record was far in excess of anywhere else in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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