Denver freezes red-light camera plan after councilman busts out stopwatch

The city of Denver will pause and reconsider a $1.2 million plan to add automated traffic enforcement systems to three intersections.

The reason: A councilman spent a Saturday with his spouse and a stopwatch.

Until Wednesday, the expansion of the “red light” program seemed like a done deal. But city officials asked to kill the proposal just as it reached the Denver City Council, saying they wanted to try other changes first. The re-evaluation could take up to nine months.

The camera system, first installed here in 2008, allows the city to ticket people who run through red lights or stop in crosswalks at several intersections around Denver. Police officials say that encourages safer driving. But Councilman Kevin Flynn was skeptical, arguing that the city should try other “countermeasures” first.

He wanted the city to try changing the timing of the traffic signals. A longer yellow light, he said, would allow drivers more time to decide whether they should stop or proceed through the intersection.

“Cameras are never necessary,” Flynn said. “If you set the yellow time appropriately, all the experience shows that you reduce red-light running to a point that putting up a camera would be pointless.”