An Eyewitness News crew out doing a story on the deactivation of 20 traffic cameras around the city happened upon one of the reasons those in favor of the cameras say they are needed.
20 of the 31 red light traffic cameras in Orleans Parish are now turned off and will no longer generate tickets for drivers. And all cameras in school zones will be turned on only for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
Carrollton and Palmetto is one of the busiest intersections in the city. There are traffic cameras in both directions in the area. The one for riverbound traffic has been turned off, but the one for traffic headed toward the lake remains on – and today it captured a crash where a vehicle apparently raced through the red light and into three vehicles that were crossing Carrollton with the just-changed green light.
Eyewitness News had a crew at the intersection while doing a story on the change. While there, the crew heard a car’s engine apparently racing and then saw the traffic camera flash and heard the crash.
"He bolted through the light. Could have killed me and this lady. Could have killed us. I mean, he bolted," said one of the men whose car was hit.
No one involved was seriously injured, but that seemed to be due mostly to good fortune.
Those struck by the vehicle said they considered themselves fortunate.
"Oh my God. We could have been really destroyed. We could have been really seriously hurt becasue look like he was going 70 or 80 when he was coming through here," said the driver.
"He said he was trying to hit the brake but his foot didn't come off the clutch or something," said a woman in another car that was hit.
The red light camera caught the driver going through the red light because it's one of the 11 cameras, not in a school zone, that will remain operational around the city, but 20 others were turned off on New Year's Day and for now will remain off.
All school zone cameras will remain on except no longer for 24 hours a day. They will operate only from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. only on days when schools are open. The mayor's office says experts studying a year's worth of data from the cameras went into this decision. Intersections least violated were turned off and those most violated were left on.
"I think the focus of that really establishes the core value of public safety to ensure that these cameras are operating in the areas most violated by drivers and in areas also akin to where our children are at school," said New Orleans CAO Gilbert Montano.
Drivers had mixed reactions.
"I think that that's a great thing. I think that you shouldn't be able to get a ticket if you can't identify who the person is driving the car," said a woman stopped at the light on South Carrollton.
"I don't think that's a good idea the way, the way, these youngsters drive around here, wide open and fast," said a man waiting at the same light.
"Sometime you don't even be driving your vehicle. Somebody else be driving it, so you get the ticket though," said a man who was "excited" about the cameras being turned off.
See The New Orleans Advocate's interactive map to see what cameras will remain activated and where.
The city says the change in cameras is projected to take in $4 million less in 2019 year than in 2018, but with the good economy and more efficient government, there will be no cuts.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office said the 11 non-school zone cameras that were left on were those where the most violations occurred. Evidence of that was seen by the Eyewitness News crew Friday.