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Seeing red? Better stop

Published Aug. 27, 2005

This won't be a good week to run red lights in Clearwater.

Police will be lurking at about a dozen city intersections all week in search of drivers who blast through when they shouldn't.

The signals at those intersections are equipped with tiny white lights that officers can see from any angle, making it easier to pursue those who run red lights.

In August 2001, Clearwater put the device on the signal at U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. Within four months, officers wrote close to 900 citations for running red lights. The dangerous practice was clipped at that intersection by half and crashes dipped, too, said Lt. Steve Burch, commander of the Clearwater Police Department's traffic section.

Burch said he believes Clearwater was the first city in Florida to use the device. Burch began using it after reading about its use in Texas. Since then, several Florida cities and counties have started using the device, Burch said.

"We're the ones who introduced it to the area," he said.

The lights turn white when the traffic signal flips to red. This allows officers to see from any angle whether someone is running the red light.

In the past, officers monitoring those intersections could patrol only from where they could personally see the signal. Or they would have to put a spotter in back of the light, who could then radio to officers in chase cars parked down the road.

The new lights make the process not only more efficient but safer for motorists and officers, who now can set up at any part of the intersection to watch for runners.

Burch said the lights, along with other traffic programs, helped slice the number of car crashes in the city by 6.7 percent last year. Fatalities also plummeted from 15 to six, he said.

"I like to think our programs are pretty successful in reducing crashes and serious injuries," Burch said. "I think we're seeing an increase in respect of red lights by the motoring public."

Red light roundups

Clearwater police will be prowling at these intersections this week looking for motorists who run red lights.

1. U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard

2. Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher Road

3. Gulf-to-Bay and McMullen-Booth Road

4. Gulf-to-Bay and Keene Road

5. Gulf-to-Bay and Highland Avenue

6. Gulf-to-Bay and Hercules Avenue

7. Belcher Road and Sunset Point Road

8. State Road 580 and Countryside Boulevard

9. State Road 580 and U.S. 19

10. Cleveland Street and Myrtle Avenue

11. U.S. 19 and Countryside Boulevard

+ Police are monitoring red lights at busy intersections.