Red Light Camera Exposed
You approach an intersection at a yellow light, and you speed up to get through it just as the light turns red. What you see next is a series of camera flashes. A few weeks later you receive a ticket in the mail. The ticket shows several photos: your face behind the wheel, your license plate and your car at the red light intersection. You just received a red light camera ticket. The fine for the violation? $490! That’s a stiff penalty, and if that isn’t bad enough, the violation also carries one DMV point, which may increase your insurance rates for the next three years.
Red Light Cameras Don’t Improve Traffic Safety
Red light cameras are going up in Sacramento and cities throughout the country. Cities and the private companies who run the cameras claim the photo enforcement equipment improve safety and reduce car accidents, but independent research shows otherwise. The majority of studies done on the red-light camera program showed an average of a 27% increase in crashes and a 21% increase in injury crashes after the installation of red-light cameras.
People Don’t Believe the Traffic Safety Claim
Sheila Dunn, Communications Director with the National Motorists Association (NMA), expresses that the devices violate the privacy of citizens and raise legal issues. She believes that red light cameras do little for traffic safety.
“The National Motorists Association opposes red light cameras because they do not improve safety and do not prevent intersection accidents,” said Dunn. “If streets have properly posted speed limits set at the 85th percentile and properly installed traffic-control devices, there is no need for automated ticket cameras.”
Young Voices Advocates
“From studying the relevant data, I believe red light cameras do nothing to make America’s streets any safer while adding an unnecessary economic burden on drivers who have the misfortune of passing under a light right as it turns red,” said King. “Cities often shorten their yellow light wait times to issue more tickets. In Chicago, for example, the yellow light time was shortened, and the city issued 77,000 additional tickets.”
Why Red Light Cameras are a Scam
Watch YouTube Video: Why Red Light Cameras are a Scam. The video explains why red light camera tickets aren’t just a nuisance to drivers, but they also cost cities millions.
Studies Discredit Traffic Safety Claim
A 2005 study by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) suggested that red light cameras reduce dangerous right-angle crashes. However, the study also made an incredible discovery: rear-end collisions have actually increased. According to the study, which included 132 red light camera intersections across the country, the use of red light camera systems produced the following results:
- 25 percent reduction in total right-angle accidents
- 15 percent increase in total rear-end collisions
A 2016 report by the Florida Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found that red light intersections saw increases in almost every kind of accident following the implementation of cameras. According to the report:
- Angle crashes increased 6 percent
- Injury accidents increased 9 percent
- Rear-end crashes increased 11 percent
- Accident fatalities doubled
According to King, an advocate of Young Voices, these cameras amount to yet another government-induced fee on average drivers.
“Before scrapping its red light camera program, the city of Miami was expected to collect $10.5 million from red light camera citations in this fiscal year,” said King. “Chicago has the greatest number of red-light cameras of any city in the country, and this has led the number of rear-end injury accidents to climb by 22 percent. Other cities, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. have noticed similar trends.”
More Research that Debunks the Effectiveness of Red Light Cameras
Many independent studies have been done over the years to determine whether red light cameras are effective when it comes to traffic safety. These are studies that were not funded by private camera vendors or local governments. Below are some of the studies and their findings:
- U.S. PIRG Red Light Camera Report – this study showed local cities greedy for revenue are signing contracts with red light camera vendors that put income over traffic safety.
- Virginia Dot Study on Red Light Cameras – this study found red light camera intersections are more dangerous. It showed an increase in rear-end crashes and total injury crashes.
- Transportation Research Board Study – this study showed the lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of red light cameras.
- Office of House Majority Leader– this study looked at the problems of red light cameras and how to deal with traffic-light violations.
- Virginia Transportation Research Council Report – this study showed an overall increase in auto accidents after cameras were installed.
Drivers Deserve Due Process
Dunn with NMA says, “Americans are afforded due process under the constitution, but there is no due process when it comes to red light cameras.” She cites some instances below:
- No witness to prove the alleged violation – Police officers are not sitting at the red light intersection catching speeders. In these red light violation cases, motorists can’t confront their accuser and can’t testify to the incidents of the alleged violation.
- Drivers are not notified effectively – Cities using the red light camera program send out tickets by mail with no guarantee that the accused driver will get the ticket. Cities assume that the ticket was received and if someone fails to pay it, the cities presume it was done on purpose and may issue a warrant for their arrest.
- The cited driver is not clearly identified – The driver of the vehicle caught running a red light is not positively identified. The ticket is mailed to the owner of the car even if the owner was not the one driving the car the day of the alleged violation. The car’s owner then has to prove his or her innocence or forced to identify the actual driver.
- Drivers don’t receive the ticket fast enough – People don’t receive the ticket until weeks after the incident which makes it difficult for them to remember the alleged violation. It’s impossible for them to defend themselves if they can’t recall what happened the day of the incident.
- Red light cameras are an invasion of privacy – The red light cameras intrude on an individual’s privacy. The cameras are recording 24/7 which means all drivers are being recorded at all times. The images and videos are kept on private computer servers without any details of when they will be deleted.
Red Light Camera Concern
Watch YouTube video: Red Light Camera Concern. CBS Sacramento reports about growing concerns over red light cameras in the city of Citrus Heights.
Alternatives to Red Light Cameras
Dunn says, “if cities install and operate intersections properly, there would be very few red light violations.” Dunn believes cities should spend more time, money and effort on improving the problem intersections and not on red light cameras. She recommends a few alternatives to red light cameras:
- Add red light clearance interval – adding a short period of red lights in all directions after the yellow light phase will help reduce traffic accidents.
- Make traffic lights more visible – make the lights bigger and add metal backers to the lights to eliminate glare from the sun.
- Improve intersections – repaint lane markings, especially at turn lanes.
- Re-time traffic signals – adjust the timing of traffic lights to reduce congestion, travel time and driver encounters.
- Increase yellow light time – extend the yellow light time by a few seconds.
Longer Yellow Lights Have Improved Traffic Safety
A 2003 study on the effect of yellow-interval timing showed that increasing the yellow light duration can significantly reduce red light violations. Some cities and counties adopted the yellow light extension and saw immediate traffic safety improvement. They include:
- Albuquerque, New Mexico – The city rejected the red light program after a 2012 report showed that an increase in yellow light time of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds at 18 intersections decreased red light running violations by 50%.
- Chandler, Arizona – The city saw a huge drop in collisions after increasing the duration of yellow lights by 0.5 seconds at the intersection of Alma School Road and Ray. They were so pleased with the outcome, they extended the yellow light time from 4 seconds to 4.5 seconds at seven other intersections the following year.
- Collier County, Florida – City officials voted to end the red light camera program in 2013 and unanimously decided to increase yellow light time after the program stirred controversy and class action lawsuits.
- Fairfax County, Virginia – Traffic violations dropped 94% in 2001, less than one day after the Virginia Department of Transportation extended the yellow light time by 1.50 seconds, from 4 seconds to 5.50 seconds.
- Fremont, California – City officials saw a significant reduction in traffic violations in 2010 after increasing the yellow light time to 5 seconds.
- Loma Linda, California – The city saw a 92% drop in straight through traffic violations after extending the duration of yellow light time in 2010. The number of left-turn violations also dropped 85% a month after the change.
- San Carlos, California – City Council voted to cancel its red-light program in 2008 when the city realized the program was unprofitable after extending the yellow light time from 3 to 4 seconds.
Debunking Yellow Light Time Myths
Proponents of the red light camera program disagree that increasing the duration of the yellow light time is an answer to red light violations. They allege that the increase is a temporary solution because drivers will adjust to the extended yellow light time and continue to run the red light at intersections.
However, research proves that it is not true. Studies have shown that extending the duration of yellow light not only reduces red light violations but that drivers do not adapt to the new length of the yellow light.
Studies Prove Inaccuracy of Claims
Below is a list of studies that prove the inaccuracy of the claims:
- Determining Vehicle Signal Change Intervals – This study, conducted by the ITE Technical Council Committee, showed that drivers don’t adjust to new yellow light time.
- The Influence of the Time Duration of Yellow Traffic Signals on Driver Response – This research showed that the percentage of the last vehicles crossing the intersection was not noticeably changed by the longer yellow light time.
- Changes in Crash Risk Following Re-timing of Traffic Signal Change Intervals – The data showed that fewer crashes were reported.
Cities Shorten Yellow Lights to Increase Profit
If traffic safety is the real purpose, then cities should extend the yellow light duration at intersections. However, several cities have done just the opposite. According to the National Motorists Association Foundation, some cities have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light duration and decided to implement red light cameras, shorten the yellow light times, and collect the revenues instead.
Cities Guilty of Shortening Yellow Lights
The cities caught trapping motorists with shortened yellow light times to increase ticket camera profits over the years include:
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Chicago, Illinois
- Dallas, Texas
- Lubbock, Texas
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Springfield, Missouri
- Tampa, Florida
- Union City, California
Cities could make intersections safer with proper traffic signals or make money with red light cameras. The NMA says sadly, many cities elect money over traffic safety.
California Is Not a Driver-Friendly State
There are currently 43 communities in California with red light camera intersections. The fine for red light camera tickets in California is the steepest in the United States. It ranges from $490 to $540. According to the California vehicle code, running a red light is an infraction. That means the violation imposes not just a heavy fine but also adds one point to your DMV record, which will raise your insurance premiums for three to five years. Due to that, California has not gained a reputation as a driver-friendly state in recent years. A number of cities across California have stopped using red light cameras for reasons including cost and lack of evidence for violations, as well as reducing auto accidents. More than 60 cities throughout the state have decided the cameras were not worth keeping.
California Judges Strike Down Red Light Camera Evidence
Several appellate courts in California are frustrated with the conduct of cities and private camera vendors. One case in point was California v. Khaled (2010). Three judges on a panel of the California Superior Court in Orange County threw out a red light camera ticket in the city of Santa Ana.
The trial attorney objected to the admission of the photos in the red light citation because the city failed to lay an accurate basis for the evidence. The attorney claimed that the citation contained hearsay evidence including the date, time and other information. No one with direct knowledge of the system was there to testify. A Santa Ana police officer, who issued the citation, testified but he could not establish the time in question or the method of retrieving the photos and video. The court found his direct knowledge limited, and he did not qualify as an appropriate witness.
Defense lawyers for the city of Santa Ana disputed that the evidence should be permitted under the hearsay exemption for official government records. The court rejected the argument because the evidence was created by the private camera vendor and not a government agency. Without the admissible evidence, the appellate panel found there was a lack of evidence to support the violation, and all charges were dismissed.
Which Intersection in Sacramento Issues the Most Tickets?
The red light camera program in Sacramento is managed by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. There are 26 intersections equipped with cameras in the City of Sacramento. If you live, work and play in Sacramento, there’s no avoiding these intersections. However, we will identify the intersections, so you’re aware of them when driving through.
Based on official reports obtained from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department from our office, El Camino Avenue and Evergreen Street was last year’s top red-light ticket intersection. It issued 1,482 tickets.
Red Light Cameras Sacramento and the Tickets Issued
- Watt Avenue and Fair Oaks Blvd with 1,460 tickets
- 5th Street and I Street with 1,242 tickets
- Challenge Way and Arden Way with 1,211 tickets
- Calvine Road and Highway 99 with 966 tickets
- Howe Avenue/Power Inn Road and Folsom Blvd with 917 tickets
- Florin Road and East Parkway with 865 tickets
- Florin Road and Franklin Blvd with 767 tickets
- Broadway and 21st with 749 tickets
- Madison Avenue and Date Ave with 725 tickets
- Arden Way and Watt Avenue with 574 tickets
- Howe Avenue and Hurley Way with 572 tickets
- Fair Oaks Blvd and Watt Avenue with 535 tickets
- Madison Avenue and Sunrise Blvd with 454 tickets
- 16th Avenue and W Street with 450 tickets
- Mack Road and Center Parkway with 425 tickets
- Fair Oaks Blvd and Howe Avenue with 415 tickets
- J Street and Alhambra Blvd with 401 tickets
- 47th Avenue and Martin Luther King Blvd with 289 tickets
- Mack Road and Valley Hi Drive with 216 tickets
- Florin Road and Lindale Drive with 209 tickets
- Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Blvd with 180 tickets
- Elkhorn Blvd and Don Julio Blvd with 178 tickets
- El Camino Avenue and Eastern Avenue with 151 tickets
Red-Light Cameras are Just a Moneymaker for Cities
The red light camera program is nothing more than a money-making business. The cameras exist to simply raise revenue. Red-light camera tickets generate an incredible amount of money for cities and the private companies that operate the cameras.
Dunn with NMA says, “automated ticket camera systems are designed to make money not just for cities but also for states.”
“Basically, a red-light camera ticket is taxation by citation,” said Dunn. “In many places, there are no points against insurance and few repercussions if the ticket is not paid. Cities and states actually budget for the income of these tickets, so they are meant to balance out budgets.”
In 2017, the City of Sacramento issued 16,275 tickets from all 26 cameras, bringing in a total of nearly $8 million. The Census American Community Survey (ACS) shows the per capita income for Sacramento in 2016 was $32,896. In comparison to jobs, the $8 million that the city of Sacramento raked in could supply work for 243 families.
Where Does the Money Go?
Police say the red light cameras are there for one reason alone: safety. But they neglect to disclose that more than half of the fine goes directly back into the cities’ pockets and also to the private company that operates the red-light camera system.
King with Young Voices believes a good chunk of red light camera citation money goes into the city coffers, possibly toward funding police departments or other necessary government functions. However, he says a huge chunk of this money also goes toward the red-light camera producers.
“Going back to the Miami example, of the $10.5 million the city was expected to collect this year, $4.4 million of it was set to go toward American Traffic Solutions, the company they contracted with for the program,” said King.
Sacramento County contracts with the Australian-based private company, Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., to install and run the program. Redflex charges the City of Sacramento $3400 per month per camera. If you do the math right, Sacramento forks out $88,400 a month for 26 cameras. That’s over a million dollars a year for the private corporation.
In the City of Citrus Heights, the majority of red light ticket revenue goes to pay Redflex. According to the latest contract, the Citrus Heights Police Department generates an average of more than $600,000 a year. Redflex receives $4562.50 per month for each of the eight existing intersections, a total of over $400,000 a year.
Rolling Right Turn Violations
Sacramento issued close to 15,000 red light camera citations in 2016, and nearly 6,000 of those tickets were for drivers rolling on a right turn. Although a rolling right turn is precisely a traffic violation, reports show the risk is minimal, even to pedestrians.
A 2011 report from Safer Streets L.A. entitled How Dangerous is a Rolling Right Turn found that the number of rolling right turn accidents was about one in every 127,000 accidents each year in Los Angeles. This is less than the odds of getting struck by lightning. In addition, the reports showed that most of the accidents resulted in little or no harms, even when there are bicyclists or pedestrians involved.
The millions of taxpayer dollars cities spend yearly on the program could be put to better use than giving thousands of citizens tickets of $490 each for a technical violation that seldom result in any type of accident.
Redflex Traffic Systems Scandal
According to King, red light camera vendors in 13 states have been charged with bribing municipal officials in order to land lucrative contracts to equip the city with their cameras.
A case in point was the infamous bribery scandal surrounding Redflex Traffic System and city officials in Illinois in 2014. Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley pled guilty to funneling cash and gifts to former city Department of Transportation official John Bills in return for city contracts. Both were found guilty in 2016 and sentenced to prison.
According to Redflex’s former executive vice president, Aaron Rosenberg, the Redflex bribery scheme is widespread and ongoing. Rosenberg acknowledged that local officials in other states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington received gifts and other financial enticements intended to persuade them to do business with Redflex.
Bogus Red Light Camera Tickets
The city mails out bogus red light camera tickets to trick registered owners into identifying the actual driver. These are fake tickets called snitch tickets. Snitch tickets are sent out when the red light camera photos weren’t clear enough or if the gender of the driver doesn’t match the gender of the vehicle’s owner. Even though there isn’t a law requiring you to identify the driver, most police departments will tell you that you must. Sometimes the police will make a false or misleading statement in order to investigate crime and get criminals to confess. Once you admit, you were the driver, or name the person who was, a real ticket would be issued.
You Got a Red Light Camera Ticket, Now What?
The first step is to check if it is a snitch ticket. Snitch tickets will not have the court’s address on it but will say at the top, “Courtesy Notice-This is not a ticket.” If it’s a snitch ticket, you can just ignore it.
Is the ticket from Los Angeles County? You can disregard any red light camera ticket from Los Angeles County. The County has admitted that they are not enforcing red light camera tickets. Los Angeles courts do not require you to appear in court and will not report the unpaid ticket to the DMV. Unfortunately, that does not apply to other counties.
You can fight the ticket. California will allow you to represent yourself in traffic court. The court does not assign lawyers for traffic infractions, but you can retain a traffic attorney. Seeking legal advice is worthwhile if you fear you could lose your driver’s license due to another point on your driving record.
Defending a Red Light Camera Ticket
If you received a red light camera ticket and you want to fight it, there are three main defenses you can use. They are:
- The yellow light was too short – some cities have already been caught shortening the duration of yellow lights to increase ticket violations. It’s worth looking into it as an option in your case.
- You were not the driver – the photo in the citation will help prove that you were not the one driving the car at the time of the alleged violation. The County of Sacramento provides access for you to view the photo and video of the violation.
- The red light camera was malfunctioning – This may be a harder case to prove, but it’s attainable. You may want to consult with a lawyer to make this argument.
How to Fight a Red Light Camera Ticket
Watch YouTube Video: How to Fight a Red Light Camera Ticket. The video shows some easy steps on how you can actually beat the red light camera tickets.
Red Light Cameras Controversy
Red light photo enforcement is stirring up controversy nationally as it is currently at the center of a frenzied debate. Red light camera tickets have been prohibited in 26 states. Now there is a growing number of regions which are questioning whether the red light camera programs are effective.
In reference to King’s article, Miami is the latest city to put an end to its red light camera system that has been issuing tickets since 2010. According to the article, Miami officials have voted to terminate the red light camera systems in December 2017. The legislators who voted agreed to give the company 60 days to begin shutting down operations of dozens of cameras set up throughout the city. Although the city initially said cameras were installed to improve traffic safety, residents began to question whether or not the cameras were indeed used to help the city government’s budget during the recession.
Motorists are Fed Up and Fighting Back
Red light cameras are actually decreasing throughout the United States. Dunn with NMA confirms that’s because drivers are fed up and taking the issue to a ballot vote.
“In California for example, a nearly $500 ticket in some instances could mean the start of a downward spiral for low-income and even middle-income motorists,” said Dunn.
Dunn also noted that some police chiefs, who believe that there are better alternatives, are convincing their city councils to stop the programs.
“City Council members realize that the money that is spent on the company that provides the cameras would give them more cash to hire police,” Dunn said.
But until all red light cameras completely go away, drivers will continue to receive citations in the mail if they run a red light at an intersection equipped with cameras.
Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer. If you or a someone you love has been involved in a car accident, call me for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400. You can also contact me online at our online form on www.autoaccident.com. Please note: I do not handle traffic offenses.
I am a proud member of a forum called the Million Dollar Advocates. It consists of prestigious trial attorneys nationwide with a track record of settlements and verdicts of one million dollars or more for clients. You can read more about our Verdicts and Settlements.
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