If you’ve ever been caught running a red light at one of the seven City of Humble intersections with red-light cameras, you may wonder how it happened and where your fine goes.
“Contrary to popular belief, the city is not lining its pockets and padding its general fund,” said Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe.
“The funds collected are extremely restricted in their use,” he said. “First, funds must go for the purchase, lease, installation and maintenance to operate the red-light system. After that, 50 percent of the revenue is sent to the state comptroller who deposits it in the State Trauma Fund.”
The remaining balance is placed in a special city fund that may only be used to fund traffic safety programs, including pedestrian safety programs, public safety programs, intersection improvements, and traffic enforcement, according to Stuebe.
Based on the Texas Transportation Code, which governs photographic traffic signal enforcement, the city also sends a portion of the funds collected from red-light camera violators to Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital through the Northeast Hospital Foundation.
“We have a long-standing relationship and commitment to Memorial Hermann Northeast,” Stuebe said. “The hospital is frequently called upon for quick response and emergency care to persons who have suffered injuries and/or trauma as a result of motor vehicle accidents, particularly those that occur at intersections.”
To ensure that the Humble hospital has the best equipment, training and personnel, “… the city was compelled to provide them funding through the red-light camera fund,” he said.
The Northeast Hospital Foundation has received $300,000 from Humble’s Red Camera Fund and the funds are restricted to the purchase of equipment, emergency treatment and training to the Humble hospital’s emergency room personnel, Stuebe said.
A $90,000 grant from the Northeast Hospital Foundation to the Humble hospital was used to purchase five new pieces of equipment to be used by the emergency center team to help treat traumatic injuries or support mass casualty events that occur in and around Humble, according to Noel Cardenas, vice-president of operations at Memorial Hermann Northeast.
As the Humble campus continues to grow its trauma capabilities and services, Cardenas would like to purchase additional new or upgraded equipment that could continue to treat traumatic injuries or support mass casualty events in and around Humble.
The city instituted the red-light camera program in 2007. Here’s how it works.
A red light-running violation occurs when a motorist enters one of the seven well-marked intersections after the traffic signal turns red.
“The safety camera becomes active once the red light is showing,” Stuebe said. “It will not capture a vehicle if it enters the intersection prior to the light turning red.”
If a motorist enters one of the seven intersections after the light has turned red, cameras are activated and several images and video are recorded. One image shows the vehicle before crossing the white stop line after the red light. A second shows the violator in the middle of the intersection during the red light. There is a close-up of the license plate, time, date and duration of the yellow and red lights. A video file shows the violator approaching and going through the intersection.
A ticket is issued only after images and video are reviewed by American Traffic Solutions, the operator of the system, and an Humble law enforcement officer. The penalty is $75 for each offense and an additional $25 late payment if not paid in time.
Humble Mayor Merle Aaron doesn’t measure the success of the red-light camera program as a matter of dollars and cents or in the number of violations the city issues, but rather the number of accidents, serious injuries or deaths that have been prevented.
“It was never to increase revenue,” he said, “but for safety, to reduce the number of accidents. We chose our most dangerous intersections and, frankly, we’re saving lives. Motorists learn they must stop or they’ll get a ticket. I believe in the ‘eyeball test’ and, since 2007, you’d be hard pressed to find an instance in which Memorial Hermann’s Life Flight had to land at one of the intersections in Humble with a red-light camera. It has cut the number of accidents drastically.”
The red-light program always seems to have a target placed on it by legislators and the governor’s office, but the mayor believes that camera surveillance will only increase.
“We’re in an age of electronics,” Aaron said, “and all roads will one day be monitored. Putting police at every intersection is not the solution. Surveillance is.”
Cardenas is grateful to the Humble City Council and the Northeast Hospital Foundation for the generous donation and for anticipated future donations.
“The equipment we were able to purchase with this gift will help us continue to deliver on our pledge to always provide safe, high-quality care tailored to our patients’ needs,” Cardenas said.
As for motorists fearing they’ll get a ticket, they are funding a program that is vital to trauma patients, and Aaron has a valuable piece of advice, too.
“You won’t get a ticket if you don’t run the red light.”