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Pedestrians keep a nervous watch as they cross the busy street. Vehicles zip through on green, amber and even the occasional red light.

The Willingdon and Kingsway intersection in Burnaby is one of the most dangerous in the province, a fact highlighted Tuesday when the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia announced it has been equipped with a red-light camera.

The installation is part of ICBC's upgrade and expansion of its intersection safety camera program. For more than a decade, the Crown corporation has rotated 30 cameras between 120 intersections across the province.

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Cameras will now be permanently installed at 140 intersections, though they will be in operation only when statistics show collisions are most likely to occur. Some of the intersections used in the former program will be dropped, while others - such as Willingdon and Kingsway - will have a set of electronic eyes for the first time.

Thirty-five of the sites in the new program were up and running Tuesday; the others will be phased in over the coming year. The old cameras used film, while the new devices are digital.

Nicolas Jimenez, ICBC's director of road safety, said the goal of the $23-million upgrade is clear.

"Slow down at intersections. An amber is not an invitation to speed up; it's a warning to slow down," Mr. Jimenez said. "The thing about red-light running is it's so not complicated. It is the simplest thing in the world to be a safe driver at an intersection."

Mr. Jimenez said 23,000 red-light tickets were issued in B.C. last year. Violations carry a $167 fine, which is reduced by $25 if paid within 30 days. ICBC predicts the number of tickets issued will rise to 33,000 in 2011.

None of the money generated goes to ICBC, Mr. Jimenz said. Instead it is sent to municipalities across the province for public-safety projects.

A provincial government spokeswoman confirmed that's the case. She said 100 per cent of court-imposed fines for violations go into a provincial fund.

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"Local governments direct these funds to where they can make the greatest impact on community safety. Across British Columbia, communities are using traffic-fine revenue for everything from increasing the number of police officers on the beat to public-safety outreach programs - visible and tangible results for taxpayers and for our communities," the spokeswoman said.

Pedestrians at Willingdon and Kingsway said they're glad to see the extra layer of safety.

"It is dangerous. It's a really busy intersection," said one woman, noting that cars often race through after the lights change.

Chris Lindstrom, whose apartment overlooks the street, said pedestrians are well advised to make eye contact with drivers.

However, Mr. Lindstrom said the cameras are unlikely to affect his driving habits. "I'm careful with any intersection," he said. "I'm paranoid."

Willingdon and Kingsway sits just a few blocks from Metrotown mall, B.C.'s largest shopping centre. Cars routinely raced through the intersection on amber lights Tuesday afternoon, and some appeared to go through on the red.

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The intersection has 24 crashes a year, on average, with 257 injuries. A recorded voice can be heard alerting pedestrians about how many seconds they have to cross the street. An office building is being erected on one corner, adding to the noise level.

There are about 250 crashes at B.C. intersections every day. Ninety-five result in injury or death.

More than 40 of the cameras will be set up in Vancouver and most will record within the Lower Mainland. The Interior will have seven cameras, and Vancouver Island five. ICBC said sites were selected based on collision type, severity and frequency.

Violation tickets will be sent out within a few days of the offence. The appeal process is the same as when a police officer issues a ticket.







RED-LIGHT DISTRICT

The fine print on red-light tickets:

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  • In order for drivers to get a ticket, the light has to turn red and the car has to then enter the intersection.
  • Drivers who were already in the intersection waiting to turn left will be spared.
  • ICBC said the best advice it can offer drivers is to be cautious when approaching intersections.
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