How To Deal With Red-Light Cameras

How To Deal With Red-Light Cameras

The Best Defense Is a Full Stop


Despite increasingly vocal public outcry, red-light cameras have become an integral part of traffic safety enforcement in hundreds of U.S. cities and towns. At last count, close to 700 of them had installed red-light cameras, according to an October 2011 report from U.S. PIRG, a consumer research and advocacy group.

If red-light cameras have popped up in your area, apart from obeying the law, here are some other steps you can take to prevent a ticket, and tips on what to do if you get one.

1. Find out if there are red-light cameras in your area. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains an interactive database of states with red-light and speed cameras. Click on a state in the map to see whether cameras are installed statewide or in specific communities, what photographs they take (driver, tag, etc.), and what penalties are involved for red-light camera tickets. If your city or state has red-light cameras at intersections, you can find out more about them on the transportation section of the appropriate government agency's Web site.

2. Avoid rolling stops on right turns. In some cities, illegal right turns — mainly rolling stops — account for more than 90 percent of tickets issued by red-light cameras, says Phineas Baxandall, a U.S. PIRG senior analyst and program director, and co-author of the group's red-light camera study. Here's how to prevent a rolling-stop ticket: When you get to an intersection, stop behind the limit line before moving forward to check oncoming traffic. Then either proceed or stop again to wait for traffic to clear before turning right, Baxandall says.

3. Track red-light cameras as you drive. A cottage industry is selling products to help drivers circumvent being caught by red-light cameras. Among the newest products are red-light camera detector apps such as Trapster (which actually is a free app) that can be downloaded to a smartphone or a car's GPS. The crowd-sourced apps depend on drivers to report the red-light cameras they see. When the next motorists who use the device approach an intersection, the app emits an audible warning. But buyers should beware: There are mixed reactions to the apps from some purchasers who've left comments about the products on online app stores. Even motorists rights' groups don't advocate using them.

"They're only as good as the quality of the information that's being given," says John Bowman, communications director for the National Motorists Association, a Waunakee, Wisconsin, driver's rights group.

4. Fight the ticket. Legal gray areas surrounding traffic safety laws in some states have spawned companies that sell red-light camera defense kits. For example, California drivers can contact a company called TicketKick with details of their red-light camera ticket and get a customized written defense they can mail into the court, as well as sample forms and other documents.

TicketKick previously handled cases exclusively via e-mail or phone, but in late 2011, it opened two locations in Southern California. TicketKick also recently beefed up its legal staff by hiring an attorney who formerly prosecuted traffic tickets. The National Motorists Association provides people who pay its $35 annual membership fee with an e-book called Fight That Ticket, a CD and one-on-one phone or e-mail consultations. The organization also puts people in touch with local activist groups.

Popular tips that include would-be red-light-camera busters like sprays and slip-on plastic shields which purportedly prevent a car's license plate from being picked up by a red-light camera offer mixed results, based on comments left on online consumer forums. While sites such as Amazon stock the products, it doesn't mean they're legal to use. PhantomPlate, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, company that's been around since 1996, cautions drivers to check state and local laws before using its PhotoBlocker sprays and PhotoCover shields.

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  • pilot746 pilot746 Posts:

    Hi Michelle, You may want to do a little more research on the apps you mention. Trapster is completely free - nothing to purchase.

  • The Edmunds information is helpful, unless drivers have received a red light/speed camera citation. The red light camera firm only handles California red light camera tickets. The subject of traffic enforcement cameras is a comprehensive subject involving many fields knowledge, that’s why most ticket recipients either pay or fight and loose. The Three “E”s of traffic safety are first Engineering, Education and then if they don’t work, traffic Enforcement. Most cash strapped towns jump to the last E and then add a fourth “Enrichment”. Not one of the 15 or more red light camera vendor contracts I have examined ever mentioned the word “Safety”. The camera vendors don’t include safety milestones and depend on improperly engineered intersections to keep stockholders happy with profits. These traffic enforcement cameras operate willy-nilly with any government oversight on any level. Most other law enforcement speed devices must be certified and so are food scales, gas pumps, elevators, amusement rides and x-ray machines all must be inspected, but not traffic enforcement cameras. Extending yellow light durations has been proven in studies and the real world as in Georgia and Ohio who passed laws extending yellow lights one second and reduced violations by 80% and crashes by 50% as in Georgia. Government statistics were mentioned, but the causes of the red light violations are not mentioned are never mentioned by camera vendors because cameras can’t prevent these occurrences. Federal Highway Administration states the causes of red light violations: 43% caused by DUI, high on drugs or over medicated patients. Second cause 27% First Responders, fire engines, police cars and paramedics. Third cause, 23% are distracted drivers for various reasons including road rage. Red light ticket cameras lack any capability to PREVENT these violations. For most red light violations proper traffic engineering would help a lot like adding a second of yellow for safety, restriping when needed and maintaining traffic signals to name a few examples. When a politician says the cameras are all about safety not the money, they never offer to forgo the fine revenue. Forensic Video Expert

  • alberte alberte Posts:

    Here is info just for California, where the tickets are handled differently than most other states. A red light camera ticket from ANY city in LA County can be ignored, as the LA courts do not report ignored camera tickets to the DMV. This was revealed in LA Times articles in 2011. Skeptical? Google: Red light camera no consequence. Also, it could be a Snitch Ticket, the fake/phishing camera tickets the California police send out to bluff car owners into ID'ing the actual driver. Snitch Tickets say, at the top, "Courtesy Notice-This is not a ticket," and you can ignore them, too! Skeptical? Google: Snitch Ticket.

  • fjsthoughts fjsthoughts Posts:

    The following is a response I wrote to an article in the New Orleans Times Picayune about traffic cameras in the city: I drive for work throughout the city and southern region almost 40 hours per week. I am no great fan of these traffic cameras. I do know this: If you REALLY want to save lives put those cameras on the interstates and highways every few miles. Catch and penalize -- and perhaps take away the driver's license of -- speeders and tailgaters. I fear for my life every day on the road and I thank my guardian angel for protecting me yet again when I make it home safely. It saddens me when I pass the hundreds of roadside memorials along my route. Many, many, many people flirt with death for themselves and innocent others when they speed and tailgate. I guess they assume nothing could possibly go wrong. They are WRONG! Everything can and does go wrong in a split instant and they leave no room -- no margin -- for error. I say penalize them all. Take them all off the road. Save lives. Not pretend, but REALLY! Fred J. Scheyd [non-permissible content removed]

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