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          Front Page




Less Green for Red Light Tickets

By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
    Lighter fines are on the way for drivers photographed running a red light.
    Albuquerque city councilors on Monday agreed to reduce the fine from $100 to $69 for red light violations. They also lowered the fines for drivers caught on camera exceeding the speed limit.
    The ordinance, sponsored by Councilor Ken Sanchez, is part of an effort to overhaul the city's traffic-camera system. A task force of engineers and other experts recommended lowering the fines.
    Sanchez said the new penalties match what it would cost if you get pulled over by an officer.
    "This is important legislation," he said.
    Several councilors said the public seems to support the program. That's why they opted to make changes to the camera system rather than scrap it altogether.
    The program involves cameras stationed at 20 intersections throughout the city. They photograph vehicles that run red lights or exceed the speed limit, and citations are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
    Sanchez's bill made several changes to the speeding penalties. The fine for speeding:
   
  • Up to 10 mph over the limit: $74 instead of $100.
       
  • 11 to 15 mph: $89 instead of $150.
       
  • 16 to 20 mph: $124, down from $200.
       
  • 21 to 25 mph: $159, down from $250.
       
  • 26 to 30 mph: $184, down from $300.
       
  • 31 to 35 mph: $209, down from $350.
       
  • 35 mph and over: $259, down from $400.
        The bill also allows offenders to take a driver-safety course in lieu of paying a fine. And the city is allowed to establish a payment schedule if a violator can't pay the fine all at once.
        The changes come as state lawmakers consider their own proposals on the camera system. Some councilors said they fear that the state will take over the camera revenue, leaving the city without enough money to operate the system.
        "If you support the red light cameras, please speak to your representative or senator," Councilor Isaac Benton said.
        Councilor Don Harris said the city should have been more cautious when it launched the camera program in 2004.
        "We needed something like this task force at the front end, not the back end," he said.
        The council voted 8-0 in favor of the camera changes. Sally Mayer was absent.
        The bill now goes to Mayor Martin Chávez, who has said he supports the reduced fines and other changes recommended by the task force.