The debate will go on forever! Here and elsewhere the advisability of using cameras to catch motorists running red traffic lights is controversial.

Washington’s contract with the company that operates the cameras at two Highway 100 intersections is due to expire soon. Members of the city council debated the issue of whether to renew the contract at its last meeting. The issue was tabled until the Jan. 3 meeting.

The contract with the red light firm expires in March 2011. The contract requires a 60-day notice to cancel or to extend the present three-year agreement. The cameras are designed to photograph red light violators on east- and westbound lanes of Highway 100 at the intersections of Highway A and Highway 47. Those are high traffic intersections.

The arguments for the cameras generally center on safety. The arguments against are that they don’t improve safety that much, the company realizes too much money from fines levied, and that the owner of the car is fined and not whoever may be driving the vehicle. Raw statistics from Chief of Police Ken Hahn indicated that while the number of accidents declined slightly, there was a 50 percent decrease in injuries in the accidents. The number of “T-type” crashes has decreased. With about the same number of accidents, it must be noted that traffic has increased at the intersection while the accidents haven’t.

It was mentioned at the council meeting the fact that motorists know the cameras are there results in more alertness by drivers. With many drivers, that is a fact in hearing people mentioning it.

Like Chief Hahn we favor the cameras for safety reasons.  However, the council should try to negotiate a better deal for the city with the company, and it wouldn’t hurt to seek bids from other firms. Would the city be better off to own the cameras?

Another fact is that the largest percentage of violations were by out-of-Washington motorists. Getting a red light ticket isn’t the best public relations tool for the city.

However, after hearing the pros and cons for years about the cameras, we’d vote safety — keep them.