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Public hearing for red-light camera pilot hits glitch; deadline for comments extended

  • COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
                                A screenshot of the map of proposed red-light intersections (14 total, 10 to be selected).

    COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

    A screenshot of the map of proposed red-light intersections (14 total, 10 to be selected).

The virtual public hearing for the state’s proposed rules for its red-light camera program hit a snag this morning when numerous participants went to an erroneous link that left them wondering where it was in its first half-hour.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation is moving forward with a pilot program in which photos of a vehicle’s rear license plate will be taken if it runs a red light, followed by citations mailed to the owner.

A total of 14 intersections in urban Honolulu — from King and Middle streets to McCully and Algaroba streets — are being considered for the project, which will eventually be narrowed down to 10.

The two-year project is expected to begin as early as the end of this summer or by the end of this year. During the first 30 days, however, no citations will be issued from the red-light cameras, officials said. Instead, vehicle owners will be notified via mail that they ran a red light.

Among questions the public asked are what happens if one gets a yellow light, and is then stalled by a jaywalker or errant biker in the middle of an intersection.

Lee Nagano, DOT’s Highway Safety Manager, responded that vehicles that have already entered an intersection at a yellow light will not receive a ticket because the system is not activated until the light has turned red.

Members of the public were also concerned about vehicle owners receiving tickets even if they were not the drivers that ran the red light — if they lend their car to someone else.

HDOT said that due to privacy concerns, the red-light cameras will capture a photo of the rear license plate only, and not the person driving the car. Vehicle owners will be held responsible for those who borrow their cars. Citations, which range up to $200 for the first violation, will be issued to vehicle owners.

However, Nagano said there are some circumstances in which one can contest a citation, including lights that are not working properly, an emergency situation, or if a vehicle was stolen.

Others cited concerns about license plate covers for sale at retail outlets that can blur a photograph, preventing red-light cameras from effectively capturing an image.

HDOT said that under state law, “number plates shall at all times be displayed entirely unobscured and be kept reasonably clean.”

Among those that testified in support of the bill were Melissa Lau, the widow of the late Dr. William Travis Lau, who was one of three victims hit by a speeding pickup truck at a Kakaako intersection in 2019.

“Motorists who fail to stop for these red lights just don’t care,” she said. “They feel they can get away with it because there’s nobody else watching them like police cameras and police vehicles. There’s no consequence for them, in other words. I highly feel this will at least help force motorists to actually stop at the red light knowing they can receive a ticket, receive some kind of consequence for their action.”

Ed Sniffen, Highways Division deputy director, said the state is working with other states that have red-light camera programs in place, as well as all of the issues that come with it.

“From the DOT’s perspective, we’re looking for tools to keep the roads safer,” said Sniffen. “Our whole initiative on this is to make sure we can better enforce and get better compliance to red lights…definitely not to give more tickets. At the end of the day it’s all about ensuring we can keep the roads as safe as possible and minimize fatalities.”

A comprehensive engineering study will be completed before the red-light camera system is installed. At least 60 days before it becomes operational, HDOT must also launch extensive informational and educational campaigns about red-light running problems.

The erroneous Microsoft Teams link was posted in an HDOT press release earlier this month. Some were eventually able to find the proper link or dial in by phone. Due to the confusion, HDOT will extend its deadline for public comments from the end of today to the end of Friday.

Comments can be sent via email to Driverrecords.HWYV@hawaii.gov.

PROPOSED RED-LIGHT CAMERA INTERSECTIONS

A total of 10 locations will be chosen:

>> King and Middle streets

>> Likelike Highway and School Street

>> King and Kohou streets

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Palama Street

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Liliha Street

>> King and River streets

>> North King and Beretania streets

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Nuuanu Avenue

>> Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard

>> Pali Highway and School Street

>> King Street and Ward Avenue

>> Kapiolani Boulevard and Kamakee Street

>> Beretania and Piikoi streets

>> McCully and Algaroba streets

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