Smile, traffic violators: Hawaii County senator sponsors red light camera bill

  • Traffic attempts to move to the side as an ambulance headed toward downtown Pahoa navigates through the new traffic light at the Highway 19 roundabout. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald, file)

KAILUA-KONA — A Big Island senator hopes to create safer roadways by photographing motorists who run red lights.

Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye, D-North Hawaii, is sponsoring a bill that would establish a photo red light detector systems program. The purpose of the bill would be to deter motorists from running red lights and free up police officers to respond to priority calls.


“This bill is almost going on 20 years,” Inouye said Friday. “It’s been discussed when I first got into the Senate.”

The senator hopes to have a hearing date set for the bill by next week.

According to Hawaii Police, in 2018 from Jan. 1 to June 30, there were 110 red light violations islandwide and 44 in Kona. Maj. Robert Wagner said a red light violation is defined as when a motorist enters an intersection when the light is red.

“If you enter with yellow and leave when red that is not a red light violation,” he said.

Senate Bill 663 outlines numerous benefits to enacting the program. Not only are streets safer, but police officers are freed from “time-consuming duties” of traffic enforcement and have time to respond to priority calls. Also violators are less likely to go to court because of the photograph, which can be used as evidence against them.

Deputy Chief Kenneth Bugado said he believed installing a system such as the Photo Red Light Imaging Detector System would have a deterring effect on a driver’s conscious decision to run a red light.

“Of course, there are other drivers who commit the violation because of inattention or intoxication where deterrence of such a system would not be a factor,” Bugado said.

The legislation describes how the system would work. A camera would be positioned at intersections where red light violations are a major cause of collisions and would serve as a 24-hour deterrent to running a red light. With sensors buried under a crosswalk, there would be self-contained camera system mounted on a nearby structure.

“When a vehicle enters the intersection against a red light, the camera takes a telephoto color picture of the rear of the car, capturing the license plate,” the bill states. “A second wide-angle photograph takes in the entire intersection, including other traffic.”

The police department didn’t have statistics on the number of red light violations that occur at major intersections in West Hawaii. However, Wagner said intersections with higher speeds or ones connected to the highway tend to be more problematic than others as crash results are more serious.

“In Kona, fatalities are all over the place, but some areas are more problematic than others,” the major said. “Such as Queen K from Kona to Kawaihae, you have high speeds with only two lanes, (which is a) big problem as it is not a divided highway, so we get bad collisions.”

This equipment, Bugado said, would be effective at any heavily traveled intersection, especially at the intersections where there are long wait times at the red light.

“If a decision was made to implement this type of system, prior to doing so, a careful analysis on traffic accidents and traffic violations would be done to determine more precisely what intersections the equipment should be placed in,” he said.


The program would be run on its own in each county allowing the counties to use collected fines to pay for the system. At this point, Inouye said, she didn’t know how much installing the program would cost.

“There are cameras available, to what extent I’m not sure,” she said.

  1. Don Hurzeler February 10, 2019 7:09 am

    Our current politicians are the Big Brothers of politics. They seek to control every single action on the island…and then permit, fine or tax that action. Just think of this as another tax…it is not for your safety…it is for revenue enhancement.

    1. Bob February 11, 2019 12:31 pm

      And they will put the money in the general fund instead of using it for traffic improvement.

  2. briala February 10, 2019 7:25 am

    Where exactly are these intersections “where red light violations are a major cause of collisions”?

    The quotes from law enforcement seem to be about other traffic risks which would not be addressed with this program (i.e., two lanes, no separator.) Maybe we should spend the money on fixing those.

    1. Nope February 10, 2019 10:27 pm

      The driver who murdered 3 pedestrians on Oahu was drunk and chased by the police.

  3. joedriver February 10, 2019 7:30 am

    It’s past due, most mainland cities have had cameras for years. Just as dangerous are drivers that disregard stop signs. The new ones at the kawaihae tbone for right turns into the Q K and up to Waimea is a joke. Almost every Matson container truck blows through it as well as most drivers Since installing it there’s been several accidents and many more near misses. A traffic light with camera needs to be there before someone is killed..

  4. Sara Steiner-jackson February 10, 2019 8:12 am

    The way you free up police for violent or property crimes is to STOP ACCEPTING FEDERAL FUNDS FOR CANNABIS AND TRAFFIC STINGS.
    That is how we got in this militarized police state that does not respond to anything but grant and forfeiture monies.

    1. numbah10 February 10, 2019 6:19 pm

      The stoners chime in again.

  5. metalman808 February 10, 2019 8:15 am

    Anyway to steal our money.

  6. Scooby February 10, 2019 9:02 am

    Gullible Barney Fife going along with anything the politicians drum up. Where’s Waldo Ferreira? Traveling again?

  7. Kaipo Wall February 10, 2019 10:22 am

    People are tempted to blow red lights , especially at night when there is little or no traffic , because the timing is so badly set on so many intersections . The Intersection will allow traffic in the opposite lane to hold a green light while the other lane of the same road is held at red for up to 3 mins . Many intersections , sensing oncoming traffic light will turn red , instead of staying green , even when there is no traffic waiting to turn in from the side road . Also , the crazy placement of No Right Turn On Red signs in places with plenty of visibility and zero right turn on red danger is another frustration . Whomever is in charge of keeping the lights and their functioning timed and tuned is woefully inefficient at their job . There should be a mechanism for the public to report errant lights at intersections and there should be a timely response to those reports .

    1. numbah10 February 10, 2019 5:29 pm

      Excellent points. I regularly have to navigate at least on intersection with a hyperactive timing setup, what I call GD Nani Kailua.

      They might as well put in a stop sign there, either it is red, or the line of cars just stopped is so slow to get moving you have to stop even when it is green. This light regularly backs up a half mile of south bound cars during afternoon rush hour. Have waited through three light changes (once I could see the lights) to get through.

      The new intersection at Honokohau is timed far better. Crossing traffic might have to wait longer, but the main artery keeps flowing.

  8. Buds4All February 10, 2019 12:21 pm

    Do some research and most cities on the mainland have pulled these cameras due to inaccuracies which ended in class action lawsuits against the cities but not the contractors deploying the systems. In some cases the cities even went bankrupt. Wonder who’s relatives own the companies who will install and operate these cash machines?

  9. onceawarrior February 10, 2019 12:26 pm

    Long overdue to have an effective and efficient traffic management and enforcement at intersections.
    Accurate identification of violators must be reliable, and penalties must be justifiable and fair.
    Adherence to safety is a good vision. Make the system work.

    1. Bob February 11, 2019 12:28 pm

      Won’t happen. They will shorten the time on yellow to create more tickets, just like they did on the mainland until they got sued and cost the taxpayers a bundle.

  10. numbah10 February 10, 2019 5:15 pm

    “In Kona, fatalities are all over the place, but some areas are more problematic than others,” the major said. “Such as Queen K from Kona to Kawaihae, you have high speeds with only two lanes,

    OK genius, how are traffic light spy cameras going to help on that stretch of road?

    You safety Nazis are so freaking stupid and eager in your evil lust to control everyone.

    1. Nope February 10, 2019 10:25 pm

      Agreed, lots of people should not drive. Some Pick-up trucks are under powered and overloaded and with questionable structures attached to the truck bed and there are the drunk drivers and always on the phone drivers.
      Imagine being in Los Angeles – those lousy drivers could not make it.

  11. Nope February 10, 2019 10:20 pm

    I say it again the Konan’s drive so safely! They stop even at every green traffic light! So waste your money.

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