Improperly timed traffic light leads to 176 refunds - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Improperly timed traffic light leads to 176 refunds

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A driver's complaint about an improperly timed traffic light got the attention of a Chattanooga judge who said city officials are sending refunds to 176 motorists who were photographed by an automated camera and got tickets.

Municipal Court Judge Russell Bean dismissed the traffic cases after officials checked out the complaint that a traffic light at a busy intersection was not timed correctly. A man who received a ticket for running the light raised the issue in court.

"I'm going to dismiss them, and the city is going to refund their money back," the judge told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

City traffic engineer John Van Winkle said his office investigated the March 3 complaint and the next day corrected the computer program's timing glitch. He said the yellow light for drivers turning left onto Pine Street from east M.L King was too brief, 3 seconds instead of almost 4 seconds.

Van Winkle said cameras at the intersection had been operating since Jan. 18.

He said the city is "committed to making sure this is done correct and by the book."

City Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison said she was notifying affected motorists that they would get a refund.

"I am working on that right now," she said. "We will get (checks) out as soon as possible."       Chattanooga has a contract with LaserCraft Inc., which provides and maintains the cameras. The city and the Norcross, Ga.-based company share a portion of each $50 fine. How the fine is split depends on the type of camera, officials said.

Madison said she was trying to determine if LaserCraft will refund its portion of the fines to the city.

LaserCraft executives declined comment.

Van Winkle said the city's traffic lights typically are timed based on how long it takes a vehicle to pass through an intersection and takes into account the width of the intersection, speed limit, amount of traffic and whether the intersection is on a hill.

Both he and the judge said safety is the number one goal.

"I am convinced after speaking with the city and after speaking with LaserCraft (that) they are interested in safety and saving lives," Bean said.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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