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Simi Valley Adds Blue Traffic Lights

September 06, 2006|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Simi Valley police have acquired another tool to more safely nab motorists who zip through red lights.

Typically, traffic officers are positioned behind a motorist when a violation occurs and then give chase through the intersection, raising the level of danger.

Now the city has installed blue lights, known as tattle-tells, on signals at five of its busiest intersections. When a light turns red, a blue light on the opposite side of the signal flashes on. As a result, the so-called public safety signal indicators allow officers to wait for violators to come to them, officials said.

"The intersections we've selected are those that are most congested during peak traffic times, which makes drivers more prone to violate the law," said Lt. Roy Jones. "We get a rising number of [such] complaints when school is back in session."

Jones, who is overseeing the pilot traffic enforcement program, said department statistics show about 60% of traffic accidents in the city are tied to red-light or right-of-way violations.

The city, which regularly tops the FBI's list of safest metropolitan cities, had 938 collisions in 2005 -- 573 of them non-injury -- which is the lowest number in nearly 20 years.

"Simi Valley is not only a safe city but a safe motoring city," Jones said. "But we always think we can do better."

David Medina, a traffic engineer for the city, said blue indicator lights planned at the Erringer Road and Los Angeles Avenue intersection are scheduled to be operational in time for this morning's rush hour. Each indicator costs about $120, including installation.

Other intersections getting indicators are 1st Street and Los Angeles Avenue, 1st and Royal Avenue, Sycamore Drive and Cochran Street, and Tapo Canyon Road and Alamo Street.

Patrol officers in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks have used such indicators for several years.

"It's safer for an officer to monitor the intersection" with the indicators, said Dean Worthy, a motorcycle officer in Thousand Oaks. "Otherwise, you'd have to blitz through an intersection, which is dangerous for the officer and other traffic."

Worthy said the number of overall citations has not gone up in Thousand Oaks as a result of the indicators, and Simi Valley's Jones said he did not expect a hike in the number of violations. The cost for running a red light ranges from $135 to more than $350, not including court fees and penalties.

"We're writing the same amount of tickets, but we can do it in a much safer manner," Worthy said.

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greg.griggs@latimes.com

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