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'They've been able to reduce high-end speeding': Should Eugene issue tickets by camera?

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A new Oregon law takes effect Thursday allowing cities to use red light cameras to issue speeding tickets. Some cities already use the cameras to target running red lights. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Red light cameras in Oregon cities could soon result in tickets for drivers - even if the light is green.

A new Oregon law takes effect Thursday allowing cities to use red light cameras to issue speeding tickets.

Portland, Salem and Albany and a few other cities already have those cameras in place.

Eugene and Springfield do not.

But a traffic safety task force in Eugene is examining the option.

The 19-member study group is part of the Vision Zero project.

That's the program aimed at reducing fatal and injury car crashes in Eugene.

Traffic cameras could be targeted "where we have a problem with crashes related to that, related to people driving through red lights and people speeding," said Matt Rodrigues, traffic engineer with the City of Eugene.

Rodrigues doesn't know how much such a system would cost, but in many cases the cost is covered by the company that installs the cameras.

He said the results of a pilot speeder camera program in Portland caught his attenion.

"They've been able to reduce high-end speeding, which is people going 10 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit, by 90 percent," Rodrigues said.

There's a flip side, noted Lt. Scott McKee with the Springfield Police.

"Traffic cameras and that sort of surveillance," he said, "is not popular with the public."

McKee said Springfield Police aren't against the technology, but said "old school" methods still work best.

"We deploy our staff to those areas and do actual traffic enforcement," he said.

McKee said people getting tickets in the mail gives officers no chance to use what he terms "essential discretion."

"We want our officers to be able to determine in the context of the stop and the circumstances: what's the reason behind the speed," he said.

But Diane Johnson of Eugene said she is open to the idea.

"I'm all for them catching speeders," she said, "particularly at crossings.

The Eugene City Council will get the final say when they see the complete Vision Zero proposal this fall. If red light cameras get the green light from city leaders, you could see them on the streets within 2 years.