For those who see campus stop signs as a mere traffic suggestion, navigating Cornell by car may get a bit more expensive this week.
The Cornell University Police Department is participating in National Stop on Red Week by increasing the number of patrol cars to enforce traffic laws on the University’s roads through Sept. 2.
During National Stop on Red Week, a federal program designed to increase awareness of the dangers of running red lights, police patrols are monitoring intersections all over the Hill on a random basis, issuing traffic citations for any observed traffic violations. All central campus intersections with yield signs, stop signs or traffic signals are being patrolled.
“We have extra patrol officers and officers on overtime looking out for [intersection violations] and speeding. Speeding is a big problem on this campus,” said Sgt. Chuck Howard, Cornell police traffic control coordinator.
Extra police patrols, funded through a grant given by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, may mean more tickets for the sake of safety. “Raising awareness of red light running can do a great deal, but you have to have strict enforcement efforts too,” said Christopher Gaim, spokesman of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. Campus patrols issued 62 traffic tickets for running red lights, 185 tickets for passing stop signs, and 192 tickets for speeding in the 2004-2005 academic year alone.
“[Traffic violations] have almost reached epidemic proportions – I have been keeping track of how many tickets were issued [by Cornell police] by this time last year. This year, we have already surpassed that number in each of the three categories [of red light and stop sign running and speeding],” said Howard.
Cornell became involved in the program three years ago in effort to reduce the number of injuries on campus that are associated with red light-running. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established the Stop Red Light Running Program in 1995, later partnering with the American Trauma Society to promote the community-based traffic safety plan. Since then, the program has expanded, and more and more cities continue to recognize and support the program’s initiatives.
“Red light running is a big problem around the country. Each year about 900 people are killed and 176,000 are injured in crashes involved in red light running- [Today], running red lights or stop signs are the [greatest] causes of crashes in cities” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Some program supporters believe that unless initiatives are taken to reduce stop light violations, the number of injuries and deaths from these violations may increase over the next few years. “Part of the problem is that there are more cars on the road every year, and the amount of traffic enforcement is not keeping up. [Another] part of the problem is that there has been desensitization to the whole driving process. Now there are more cars and less enforcement with [drivers] that aren’t paying attention. If they are not paying attention, then they are just putting their own time over the safety of other drivers,” said Gaim.
National Stop on Red Week is a government response to thwart driver distractedness through driver education, and by improving the engineering of roadways and vehicles, and enforcing the law. With new initiatives and technologies, including red light cameras that take pictures of red light violators, becoming more visible in communities across the country, program supporters hope to combat the increase in red light infractions.
During National Stop on Red Week at Cornell, CUPD “has been involved in educating and enforcing. [In the past], there was a population stipulation for a city to put up red light cameras,” so Ithaca was never able to acquire them, Howard said. “They have been very good in certain areas, but at this time it’s just not economically feasible for the three red lights on campus,” he added. “Traffic enforcement has not been able to keep up, and many communities have found the red light cameras to be effective while freeing [patrols] from traffic control duties-Currently, in New York, state law allows only red light cameras in New York City. That is something we have been trying to fix, and there is a definite interest,” said Gaim.
While National Stop on Red Week has only been in effect for a few years, both Cornell police and national program supporters have found that the initiative has been successful in educating communities of the dangers associated with red light running.
“It is one of the few traffic safety areas that is completely preventable, and I think there is definitely more awareness of [the consequences of red light running],” said Gaim.
“Our motto this year is ‘courtesy promotes traffic safety! If people are just more courteous [on the road] then the number of crashes will be reduced-The state has commended [Ithaca] on our personal injury-accident rate, and we want to keep it low. So take your time to get where you are going!” advised Howard.
Archived article by ileen Soltes
Sun Staff Writer