Lawrence and Overland Park police now have new tools to catch red-light runners thanks to a pioneering effort by the University of Kansas School of Engineering.
KU researchers are working with the cities to install the "blue-light" technology at four intersections. The hope is to reduce red-light violations and make it easier for officers to catch offenders.
In Overland Park, the technology is going up at 75th Street and Metcalf Avenue as well as College Boulevard and Quivira Road. In Lawrence, the intersections targeted are 23rd Street at Iowa and Louisiana streets.
The intersections will have blue lights that will turn on when the light is red.
"Each traffic signal mast arm will have one or two blue lights, one adjacent to the left-turn signal, the other next to the through signal," according to a news release. "While the traffic signal is green, the blue light remains off. The blue light turns on the moment the traffic signal turns red so law enforcement officials monitoring an intersection can use the blue light as a visual cue. If it's illuminated, no cars from that lane should enter the intersection. The blue light is visible from 360 degrees, so officers will know a motorist has run a red light even if they cannot directly see the traffic signal change colors."
Fewer officers will need to monitor an intersection and officers won't have to chase a violating driver through traffic.
"The simple, yet innovative system will allow us to safely monitor and enforce traffic violations at two of the city's busiest intersections in regard to traffic accidents," said Overland Park Police Chief John Doulgass.
Overland Park traffic engineers estimate up to 10 percent of crashes are caused by red-light runners.
"This is strictly about safety," Overland Park traffic city engineer Brian Shields said. "There are so many people running the red light. If it's just half a second or 30 seconds, someone could be there and get hurt."
At 75th and Metcalf, Overland Park recorded 42 crashes last year caused by red-light runners.
Shields said this is a low-cost way to reduce wrecks caused by red-light runners and give police another tool to catch violators who don't cause wrecks.
Officials say the hope is to improve safety and build awareness, and that the goal is not to boost revenue by writing more tickets.
A similar system is already in use in Kentucky, Texas, Minnesota and Florida, including Orlando.
"We believe this system can be a valuable tool for law enforcement while substantially reducing the instances of red running and making the roads safer for everyone," said Steven Schrock, an associate professor in KU's engineering school.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is helping fund the project.
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