ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. - In Montgomery County, Abington Township police say they’re seeing more reckless driving, during the pandemic and that is despite red light cameras at dangerous intersections.
From a birds-eye view, Montgomery County’s Abington Township is a mix of quiet suburban streets laced with bustling commercials roadways.
Its population of 55,000 on Philadelphia’s northern fringe is on the move.
"What’s it like out here? What’s the traffic like?" FOX 29’s Jeff Cole asked.
"Fast," replied Konte Brown.
Just ask Brown, wrangling a sign on Old York Road.
"On point though, I watch myself near the curb and all. People come a little close. I make sure I’m three feet from the curb," Brown explained.
Police noticed the same problem several years ago.
That’s when they posted red light cameras to catch dangerous drivers at three intersections - Susquehanna and Welsh Roads on Old York, Moreland Road and Fitzwatertown Road.
They’ve recorded speeders and red light runners, 20 a day, 600 per month.
"Why do you need red light cameras here?" Cole asked.
"Those three intersections – we have red light camera in the most dangerous intersections in our township," replied Deputy Chief of Abington Police Chris Porter.
Police argue the cameras and citations of $100 a pop have saved lives and reduced speeds, until the pandemic hit.
"With fewer people on the road, people had a tendency to open it up?" Cole inquired.
"Certainly did. The speeding violations. The speeds that we saw were through the roof," Deputy Chief Porter answered.
And, it wasn’t only speed. Police say they’ve gotten complaints of dangerous, even distracted driving that led to a recent crack-up captured on camera.
"Abington police also say it was the fear of the unknown about a potentially deadly virus that held them back from making face-to-face traffic stops.
"We didn’t want to put the public at risk. We didn’t want our officers to be at risk. Officers were unsure how handle photo IDs," Deputy Chief Porter explained.
Dangerous driving, possibly linked with cautious policing, has added up to more deaths on the nation’s roads.
According to the National Safety Council, a non-profit focused on health and safety, more than 42,000 Americans were killed on the roadways in 2020, up eight percent from 2019, even though mileage dropped.
Red light cameras have their critics.
"People slam on their breaks even worse. Someone is afraid of getting a red light ticket. The person behind them goes through the red light and you have accidents," explained Taylor Kroma-Wiley.
Police say they’re where the danger lurks.
"You’re much more likely to be injured in an auto accident or even killed in an auto accident than a criminal action in our township," Deputy Chief Porter added.
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