Red light camera

Red light cameras help to enforce traffic laws by automatically photographing vehicles disobeying stop lights. The system continuously monitors the traffic signal and the camera is triggered by any vehicle entering the intersection above a preset minimum speed and following a specified time after the signal has turned red. Many red light camera programs provide motorists with grace periods of up to half a second. Depending on the particular technology, a series of photographs and/or video images show the red light violator prior to entering the intersection on a red signal, as well as the vehicle's progression through the intersection. Cameras record the date, time of day, time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal, vehicle speed, and license plate. Tickets are typically mailed to owners of violating vehicles, based on review of photographic evidence.


Various groups and people oppose the use of red light cameras. They believe that the use of these devices raises many legal issues and violates the privacy of citizens. They also question the effectiveness of red light cameras and if it really helps the traffic safety. The cameras cannot usually identify the vehicle driver, raising owner liability issues, because it is usually unclear from the picture taken which individual was driving.. In California, this issue has been addressed by requiring that pictures be taken from the front to get a clear picture of the driver and license plate.

Multiple studies over many years have consistently shown these devices to increase accidents at intersections.

A University of South Florida College of Public Health study has determined that red light cameras actually increase the number and severity of crashes, and the main cause of these accidents are people slamming on their brakes to avoid going through a yellow light, for fear of the red-light camera catching them. Other studies have shown that the reduction of side-angle collisions at intersections has been largely offset by an increase in rear-end collisions.

At some intersections where red-light cameras have been installed, it has been determined that the duration of the yellow signal was illegally shortened, thereby ensuring that there would be more violations and thus, more revenue. In the Tennessee case, 176 tickets ($8800 in fines) were refunded to drivers caught in the first 0.9 seconds after the signal turned red when it was discovered that the length of the yellow signal timing had been reduced by that amount.

In some areas, red light enforcement cameras are installed and maintained by private firms such as Affiliated Computer Services. In many cases, these private firms also administer the processing of citations. Many people disagree with this privatization of a police function.

In Texas, red light violators caught by a red light camera are served with a civil citation rather than a criminal citation. The civil infraction (civil fine of $75, no traffic points) conflicts with the same criminal infraction (fines of $1 to $200, and traffic points).


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