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Red-light runners beware

Motorists will soon find more reason to drive carefully in Medford.

Medford's red light camera program is set to expand in both size and scope in the coming months, according to Medford police Deputy Chief Scott Clauson. Two more traffic cameras in the downtown area will be activated by the end of the week, bringing the total number of intersection cameras to four.

New cameras at the intersections of Eighth Street and Riverside Avenue and Fourth Street and Central Avenue will go live on Thursday, although for at least the first 30 days, Medford police will issue only warnings to drivers caught running red lights there.

Drivers caught running lights at the two intersections that have had cameras since 2002 — Biddle and McAndrews and Riverside and Barnett — will still get a ticket.

Clauson said the Eighth and Riverside intersection was among the top six accident-prone intersections in the city in a 2013 study, averaging 14 crashes a year. Statistics that led police to choose the Fourth and Central intersection wasn't immediately available.

Capability to detect speeders at all four intersections is also on the horizon, Clauson said, thanks to House Bill 2409 authorizing citations for speeding using unmanned technology. The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown in June, has an effective date of Oct. 6, according to The Oregonian. Clauson said that Medford police will give ample notice and warnings to drivers before the speed cameras go live, calling it a "marathon" campaign.

“It’s not something that we can just flip a switch,” Clauson said.

After the speed cameras are activated and another 30-day grace period, the program automatically will mail out tickets to drivers caught going more than 11 mph above the speed limit. Red-light runners caught speeding up to 20 mph above the limit will receive only the ticket for failing to obey a traffic control device, a Class B violation that carries a presumptive fine of $260. Drivers caught running a red light and speeding more than 21 mph will get tickets for both violations, according to Medford police and Oregon law.

Speeding alone between 11 and 20 mph over the limit is a Class C violation with a presumptive fine of $160. Driving between 21 and 30 mph over the limit is a $260 fine, and driving more than 31 mph over is a $435 fine.

Crashes at red lights have decreased by 46 percent since 2005, according to Clauson.

The camera program began in May 2002, but went on hiatus by 2004 because the Australian company that owned the camera devices went bankrupt, archives show. The cameras returned in 2005 with a new vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems.

Community support for the cameras remains strong, according to Clauson. Some 86 percent of citizens surveyed through Operation Care approved of the traffic cameras. Red-light running is a frequent topic of concern.

The program dramatically reduced the number of red-light runners when it launched in 2002, archives show. Before the cameras were installed, police had taken reports of more than 25 red-light runners per day at Biddle and McAndrews. Within months it dropped to five violations a day.

More recently, red light violations jumped 29.3 percent to 2,505 citations in 2016 from the previous year, according to numbers provided by Clauson.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

New traffic cameras at the intersection of Fourth and Central in downtown Medford will be activated Thursday. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]