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Drivers getting caught red-handed at lights

Massive 600 per cent spike since safety cameras installed

The number of Richmond drivers getting caught running red lights at dangerous intersections has reached epidemic levels.

Figures released by ICBC on request of the News revealed a shocking 1,394 local motorists were issued tickets for running red lights last year - a massive spike of more than 600 per cent from 2010.

It's understood that much of the incredible rise can be credited to the installation of more "intersection safety cameras" at accident hot spots around the city.

However, the five extra cameras were only put in place in November last year, indicating that the majority of the infractions happened only in the last six or seven weeks of the year.

The startling figures barely raised an eyebrow with Cpl. Kevin Lin, from Richmond RCMP's road safety unit, who sees crazy driving on the city's roads every day.

"No, I'm not at all (surprised)," said Lin.

"I knew that, because of the locations the cameras were placed, that it would probably produce numbers like this.

"At the newer (locations) we are there regularly for collisions and those intersections are known for their problems."

In 2009 and 2010, Richmond had just four intersection cameras, with a total of 242 and 230 tickets issued respectively to drivers running red lights. Last year, the number of cameras jumped to nine after the launch of a province-wide safety program initiated by the B.C. government, police and ICBC.

There were a total of 30,803 red light tickets issued across B.C. last ear, a leap of around 0 per cent from the previous year, comared to Richmond's 00 per cent increase.

Aggressive driving is the main reason for the meteoric rise, according to Lin.

"People simply do not want to wait for the lights," he said.

"It really hasn't come as that big of a surprise, as intersection crashes are a huge issue in Richmond.

"We try very hard to focus our efforts on those intersections all the time."

If the police catch you, it's a $167 fine plus points on your license. If the camera catches you, it's the same fine, but you usually escape points because it's the registered owner who gets the slap, as opposed to the actual driver.

Lin said the best advice he can give to law-abiding drivers is to be "extra cautious" and be aware that there are people who are going to take chances and not always stop when they should.

But of the impatient culprits? "They will get caught at some point. They will either get caught by the cameras or by us; but they will get caught," he added.

Illegal u-turns at major intersections in Richmond are another big problem for Lin's department.

"A huge misconception in Richmond is the no u-turn at a controlled intersection, especially on No. 3 Road," he said.

"There are a few courtesy signs telling people that, but when they're stopped by us, they complain that there wasn't a sign. But there are no u-turns at a controlled intersection anywhere in B.C."

The figures released by ICBC also showed that the numbers of fines issued in Richmond for distracted driving - namely, being on the phone - multiplied by more than 70 per cent last year to 1,493.

And the number of tickets issued for emailing or texting while driving in the city jumped to 70 from 41 in 2010.

Intersection safety cameras in Richmond are at: Cambie and No. 5 roads; No. 3 and Blundell roads; Gilbert and Blundell roads; No. 3 Road at Westminster Highway; No. 5 Rd at Westminster Highway; Garden City Road at Westminster Highway; Alderbridge Way at Shell Road; Garden City and Cambie roads and Garden City Road at Alderbridge Way.

acampbell@richmond-news.com