Could running a red light cost you, even if police officers are not around?

Lawmakers are considering a bill to bring photo red light imaging to Hawaii, advancing SB1160 in a joint committee hearing Thursday.

Here’s how it would work. When a car runs the red, a nearby camera would take a picture of the rear license plate. A second, wide-angle photo would take in the entire intersection, including other traffic.

Lawmakers say the number of drivers not following the rules has become intolerable, especially on Oahu.

On any given day, at the intersection of Beretania and Piikoi streets, drivers can be seen speeding through yellow lights, some not making it across in time.

“I come here everyday (and see people run the red light),” said pedestrian William Ramsey. “Always. Everyday. I mean, they even run the red light and almost hit us.”

That’s why some lawmakers hope to bring a red light imaging detector system to the state. The system would serve as a 24-hour deterrent. Sensors would be buried under the crosswalk and would lead to a camera mounted on a nearby structure.

Those who run the red would get their picture taken, imprinted with the time, date, location and the number of seconds the light had been red. This kind of technology is used in other places on the mainland, Canada and Europe.

If the bill passes, it would start as a pilot program at the following intersections:

  1. Fort Weaver Road and Kolowaka Drive;
  2. Kapiolani Boulevard and Keeaumoku Street;
  3. Lahainaluna Road and Kuialua Street;
  4. Fort Weaver Road and Renton Road; and
  5. Beretania Street and Piikoi Street.

This isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to bring the system here.

“Last year’s measure went to conference and that was the furthest any measure has gone before. And in the Legislature, sometimes it takes two or three years to get legislation passed,” said Sen. Will Espero, (D-Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point), public safety chair.

Espero says it’s all about safety, and the camera system would help protect pedestrians and make drivers more cautious.

“That’s what we need. We need to start babysitting these people, because they’re not taking the laws seriously,” Ramsey said.

“I think it’s a great thing, except it never ends there. They make a lot of money out of it and eventually it becomes a revenue thing,” said one Oahu resident.

“Because they would catch too much people, running the red, get fined, is that what you’re talking about?” KHON2 asked.

“Yes,” the resident said.