WEST HARTFORD – Speeders beware – you are being watched.
But the speed-detection camera installed this week at Boulevard and Whiting Lane is a kind of compassionate Big Brother that just wants to slow down drivers. Those photographed traveling 45 mph or faster at this 30-mph location will get a photo with a warning letter.
The legislature prohibits using these radar cameras for enforcement purposes, so the joint effort by police, the engineering office and the public works department amounts to a public awareness campaign.
And make no mistake, the public could stand to be more aware.
There were 2,626 crashes in town last year, 426 with injuries, and two fatalities.
Assistant Police Chief Robert McCue said excessive speed was a factor in most of the accidents.
The intersection of Boulevard and Whiting Lane – the first in a series of locations for the camera over the next year – has a “moderate” accident history but a high injury rate, said Lt. David Dubiel, head of the traffic division. Eight people were injured in the 11 crashes there in 2008, Dubiel said.
“We think it’s going to reduce the speed and bring down accident rates,” McCue said. “Call me in six months; I think it will be working well.”
David Kraus, the town engineer, said officials expect to photograph about 20 cars a day traveling at least 15 mph over the limit at Boulevard and Whiting Lane.
The town bought four speed-detection units – each of which has a metal speed-limit sign and a digital readout that posts the speed of oncoming vehicles – and one camera at a total cost of $25,000. The money comes from the traffic-calming fund, the balance of which is now $182,000.
Kraus said officials have shifted away from the more controversial method of adding islands, bump-out curbs, rumble strips and other structures to the street, and are experimenting with the camera.
Only one speed-detection unit at a time will be equipped with the camera. After this introductory period, drivers won’t know which of the units has the digital eye, McCue said.
The camera will photograph cars traveling 15 mph over the speed limit or faster. Each image shows the vehicle, with a magnified view of the front license plate.
Kraus’ staff will download the images and keep them in a computer file that will be available for public viewing. Printouts of the images will be given to the police department.
McCue said the registered owner of the offending vehicle will get a warning letter and copy of the picture. Kraus said he hopes the program opens some eyes.
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