Tulsa traffic camera concerns

Tuesday, November 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

New technology eases Tulsa traffic flow. It's not unusual to see cameras used at toll exits to catch drivers who don't pay, and California now uses them to grab red light runners. But that's not the purpose for cameras you may have noticed recently at a few Tulsa intersections.

News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey says some drivers are likely wondering what these devices are that are mounted above traffic signals here at 21st and Yorktown. But city officials assure us, big brother isn't watching. It may look suspicious, a camera mounted high above traffic. But city officials say it's just a new and improved way to control traffic flow. The camera senses cars in its detection zone and sends that signal to a control box. Laureen Gibson Gilroy with the City of Tulsa: "So you're sitting there at a traffic light and it detects that you're there, and it says, 'Oh this poor girl is waiting to go -- it's time to change to green, so it'll switch to green." Gilroy says the new video detection system works like the laser that signals store entry, or the first down marker now being used in football games. "They've got cameras similar to these that will detect when one of the players breaks that line."

This technology replaces the old method, where sensors are located beneath the pavement. Gilroy says the system is much more cost effective because it withstands weather far better and doesn't require tearing up the street to install. Local motorist, Kristal Zwayer, "Well, my husband and I saw it this morning and we figured it was a camera? Somehow they check on traffic or see how much traffic?" Kristal was relieved to find it's not for surveillance. "No one's watching you put on your makeup or anything. Oh, OK. Well, I'm less paranoid now." There's no central monitoring, either. Gilroy, "No, no, there's nobody that's down at City Hall watching us through those cameras."

The new technology will gradually replace the old, so you'll soon be seeing it more and more. The direct benefit? Gilroy says you'll spend less time waiting for lights to change. "We think in the long run, everyone will benefit. Traffic will run much smoother."

Gilroy says one of the best things about the system is it's adjustable, and capable of reading a wider range of traffic lanes. It will be installed at 21st and Lewis next.