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|RICHARDSON POLICE DEPARTMENT
Richardson, Texas, has several major intersections with an eight-lane, divided expressway intersecting with three and four-lane frontage roads. When traffic is heavy, vehicles are consistently running red lights. This makes conducting enforcement very difficult and dangerous. To apprehend violators, officers usually must go through the intersection after the light has turned red, putting law enforcement officers and citizens in a dangerous situation. Besides the width of the intersection, there are multiple lighting patterns and 2-3 second clearance times where lights in all directions are red to allow late-comers to safely clear the intersection, thus creating longer lines and more congestion.
During the citys quarterly traffic meetings, representatives from the police department, traffic engineers, and the traffic superintendent, discussed the high number of intersection crashes and the perceived lack of enforcement at intersections. The Richardson Police Department shared their concern about the hazardous situation to the officers trying to enforce red light violators.
Collaboration between the police department, the engineering department and the traffic engineer enabled them to develop an innovative, cost-effective solution to the traffic problem. Through a coordinated effort, they developed a "downstream" light system to help the Richardson Police Department take enforcement action. The "downstream" light did not require any change of laws and it could be done at a fraction of the cost of a photo red light system.
A white light was wired on the back of the signal heads or on the cross beam of the light assembly. The white light was activated when the red light received power. Officers could sit across the intersection, or "downstream" from the traffic light, know when the light turned red and wait for the violating vehicles to approach their location. The officer could either flag the motorist over or fall behind the vehicle and safely make the traffic stop.
This light system cost the city of Richardson approximately $500 per intersection. Installation requires about six hours, using a two-person crew. The "downstream" light system requires a thirty-five watt, white light bulb, powered when the red light at an intersection is activated.
During a two-day enforcement period officers issued more than 300 citations for red light running. More than 70 percent of the citations written were the result of the use of the "downstream" lights. Without the "downstream" lights, those citations probably would not have been written. 8
Time was spent with the city judges to explain the idea of the "downstream" lighting system. The judges were shown one location where the lights were installed and allowed them to monitor the operation of the lights. As a result, the judges had no resistance in endorsing the "downstream" lighting system.
Deputy Chief Larry Zacharias