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Posted: 4/14/2008 1:56:02 PM EST
Red light camera monkey business may be a national trend

By Joel Hruska | Published: April 13, 2008 - 08:11PM CT

Red-light cameras are often billed as a great way to improve traffic safety and prevent speeding. A few cities across America, however, have been caught short-timing their own yellow lights below legal levels, in what may be an attempt to boost ticket revenues by giving drivers less time to come to a stop. So how many anecdotes do you need to pronounce something a trend? It's hard to say, especially when the anecdotes in question support the abolishment of something as universally hated as the red light camera.

Six possible red light "gotcha" stories, some of which go back as far as 2005, were originally reported by theNewspaper, but were compiled into a single list of events by motorists.org. One city, Chattanooga, TN, has been forced to repay the $8800 it collected in ticket revenue, while investigations in Lubbock and Dallas, Texas and Springfield, Missouri, have uncovered evidence of similar practices, although no charges have been filed.

In the single court case that has occurred thus far, Chattanooga's city traffic engineer John Van Winkle testified that the yellow signal light should be (and was) turned on for the 3.9 seconds necessary to meet basic safety standards. The judge in question ordered the claim verified, and discovered that the light was only set for 3s—significantly less than the 3.9 second minimum. Van Winkle claims that the problem was caused by an accidental mix up with turn arrow timing, but there might be more behind the issue. According to confidential documents released in 2001, Lasercraft, the company behind Chattanooga's red camera lights, only installs red light cameras at high-volume intersections with an "amber phase" of less than 4s.

None of the other cities are facing court actions, but investigative reports have turned up troublesome trends. In Dallas, yellow lights at the city's revenue generators camera-enforced intersections were timed for just 3.15 seconds, or 0.35 seconds less than the Texas Department of Transportation minimum. In this case, a third of a second may make a substantial difference in revenue—theNewspaper reports that most (80 percent) red light tickets are issued less than one second after the light has turned to red. Ironically, Dallas is now considering scrapping its ticket revenue program, after new legislation forced the city to post signs alerting drivers to the existence of the cameras as well as requiring all towns to send 50 percent of their camera-derived income to the state's coffers.

Springfield and Lubbock have similar stories. In Springfield, residents voiced concerns last spring after the city announced its intention to slash yellow lights by 1 second at multiple intersections. In Lubbock, the city council voted in February 2007 to delay the installation of cameras after an investigation revealed that eight of the 12 intersections were the cameras were to be installed were already running yellow lights well below recommended safety minimums. Again, evidence from the investigation indicated that longer yellow lights actually reduce the number of accidents at busy intersections. The only problem is, long yellows also have a negative impact on revenue, which can make the cameras cost more than they're worth.

Ultimately, whether you take motorist.org's list of cities who are short-timing yellow lights as indicative of a national trend depends on where you draw the line between "trend" and "anecdote collection." But with state and city budgets tightening in the current economic climate it wouldn't be surprising if a bona fide trend were eventually realized.
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:03:03 PM EST
Brits have found a way to deal with them.
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:20:53 PM EST
i'd say i was surprised but i'd be lying...
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:21:45 PM EST
So... any one gotten any tickets in Chattanooga lately?
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:24:53 PM EST
NO, but it is all about the revenue. They are poping up all over here in GA.
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:26:38 PM EST
I read somewhere that the lights were being deactivated because they were not able to pay for themselves. i.e. not enough tickets to pay for the electricity to run them, let alone make them PROFITABLE
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23710970/
found it some body can make it hot or school me how to
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:27:11 PM EST
When you mix "enforcement" and "revenue" the public always loses.

Link Posted: 4/14/2008 2:38:43 PM EST

Originally Posted By CletusRoundbelly:
When you mix "enforcement" and "revenue" the public always loses.



I thought that happened when Peace Officers became Law Enforcement Officers.
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 3:33:26 PM EST
Snellville wanted to put in speed cameras in the school zones "for the kids" but changed their mind when the state legislature said they wouldn't be able keep the money. I guess the kids weren't that important after all...

Link Posted: 4/14/2008 5:34:13 PM EST

Originally Posted By JackMcC:
Snellville wanted to put in speed cameras in the school zones "for the kids" but changed their mind when the state legislature said they wouldn't be able keep the money. I guess the kids weren't that important after all...



Its always about the money.

I heard North Augusta SC has them, one more reason for me to avoid it
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 5:45:54 PM EST

Originally Posted By 2tom2:
I read somewhere that the lights were being deactivated because they were not able to pay for themselves. i.e. not enough tickets to pay for the electricity to run them, let alone make them PROFITABLE
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23710970/
found it some body can make it hot or school me how to


hot

its the 2nd "Insert Tags" button from the right
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 5:50:19 PM EST

Originally Posted By JackMcC:
Snellville wanted to put in speed cameras in the school zones "for the kids" but changed their mind when the state legislature said they wouldn't be able keep the money. I guess the kids weren't that important after all...



I live and work the South Precinct and I'll tell ya now-it's not about anything but the money for them. They had more camera's pop up in such a short period of time, that it was pretty obvious what they were doing.

They were wanting to us to pay for citations for clearing the intersection when it was pretty apparent they were going to an emergency call (blue lights on in picture and a printout of the call showing there was an emergency).
Link Posted: 4/14/2008 7:44:26 PM EST

Originally Posted By Lawman734:

Originally Posted By JackMcC:
Snellville wanted to put in speed cameras in the school zones "for the kids" but changed their mind when the state legislature said they wouldn't be able keep the money. I guess the kids weren't that important after all...



I live and work the South Precinct and I'll tell ya now-it's not about anything but the money for them. They had more camera's pop up in such a short period of time, that it was pretty obvious what they were doing.

They were wanting to us to pay for citations for clearing the intersection when it was pretty apparent they were going to an emergency call (blue lights on in picture and a printout of the call showing there was an emergency).


What? They were trying to nail you guys for running the light when you were on a call?

Sheesh. That's the epitome of dumb right there. Them, not you.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 1:01:42 PM EST
Well another way to look at it is what's good for the goose...

If all "Law Enforcement" had to pay, they might get rid of the cameras. Another great idea is to require a max fine of $100 with $85 going to the state's general fund.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 1:11:33 PM EST
In MD they got caught shortening the yellow light to gain revenue.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 1:29:06 PM EST
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 1:43:49 PM EST

Originally Posted By DKing:
Well another way to look at it is what's good for the goose...

If all "Law Enforcement" had to pay, they might get rid of the cameras.


Huh? Even if they are clearing the intersection as allowed to by law in the case of an emergency?

As for when it's not an emergency, there's a standing order in our Dept. that the individual officer will pay the fine in addition to whatever punishment the Dept. puts out. I know of other agencies with similar orders.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 2:20:30 PM EST
I know it sounds unfair, but if you guys are against them... well... I just don't think that the county would stand up to you. A Few high ranking officials go on record saying they are dangerous and cause accidents and pow it's over. Now why would they get upset about the cameras? Well if they were targeted to pay tickets...

That's how one area in Texas got rid of theirs; all violations pay, no matter the reason. A month later no more cameras. I'm just advocating a way to get rid of the dumb things. I really don't care how we go about it.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 3:24:32 PM EST
[Last Edit: 4/15/2008 3:24:45 PM EST by birdbarian]
Wait until we get speed ameras like they have In Europe,
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 3:41:36 PM EST
I doubt it would work in GA. We have the right to a jury trial for speeding tickets.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 3:47:15 PM EST

Originally Posted By DKing:
I doubt it would work in GA. We have the right to a jury trial for speeding tickets.


It doesn't mean that some beaurocrat somewhere won't think it'd be a good idea though....
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 4:00:29 PM EST
I've been waiting on the photo radar, IIRC the sign on 124 near the Gwinnett county line sez traffic laws photo enforced, laws plural....., speeding is against the law... right.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 4:11:33 PM EST
OK, since I'm not willing to research it maybe DKing will enlighten us.

I say if you get a mail order red light ticket, trash it. If I understand correctly, there is no criminal penalty, and if the city wanted to take action against you it would have to be civil.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 5:25:00 PM EST
I am fighting my red light ticket.

The statute says they have to mail it in 10 days. They took 12! Now, if I had a job I probably would have just paid it. Its going to take at least two trips to the court house to save the $70.
Link Posted: 4/15/2008 5:31:00 PM EST

Originally Posted By pokey169:
OK, since I'm not willing to research it maybe DKing will enlighten us.

I say if you get a mail order red light ticket, trash it. If I understand correctly, there is no criminal penalty, and if the city wanted to take action against you it would have to be civil.


The ticket is civil, that is correct. Many jurisdictions who have these were simply writing off the ones that were not paid, but, it became such a number, that most now have outsourced to collection agencies when they don't get paid. I guess the idea is if you don't want your credit screwed, you'll pay the ticket. It seems to me placing a collection on someone's credit is a little over-the-top for a civil traffic infraction recorded by a camera, but then, no one asked me what I thought of the process. As for LEO's, in my department, we don't have any involvement with the things; the cameras and violations are handled completely by civilian personnel.

Doug:
Like Lawman, we (and all other jurisdictions around us) have to pay the fines like anyone else if we are caught on the cameras in a non-emergency capacity, and I know for a fact a few LEO's have paid them at our PD (some LEO's from our PD, and some from surrounding agencies). As for paying them when we respond to calls and have to bump intersections, Georgia code has us covered... but then, you already knew that!

Personally, I don't like them AT ALL; they are way too "Big Brother" for my taste. But then, no one in my jurisdiction asked us LEO's what we thought (at least not the lowly-ranked ones; I can't speak for everyone). I saw the comment about the speed cameras... I agree with Doug, a city/county would have a very hard time with that one, since speed detection requires testing, calibrating, and testimony. But then, running a red light also required a ticket, at least until the powers-that-be learned how to circumvent the criminal system and make the citations civil violations based on city/county codes, instead of state-level traffic codes.
Link Posted: 4/16/2008 2:30:04 AM EST
Can you image if 30% of all red light ticket recipients in one town in one month asked for a hearing!!!!

That would be fun to watch.
Link Posted: 4/16/2008 3:18:27 AM EST
Comrades, settle down. This is about SAFETY, not revenue!

I hate the ones in Athens, and I'm sure they monkeyed with the yellow light time to increase revenue.
Link Posted: 4/16/2008 3:55:22 AM EST
On Clark Howard the other day he was talking about Houston or Austin Tx (I think) where people had learned to stop at the first hint of yellow. They weren't making any money so they had a big announcement that they were going to turn the cameras off for a while. (the intent being to get people used to running them again) WTF???? In my personal (but never humble) opinion..this is a criminal act with malicious forethought. Those departments caught tampering with the yellow delay should have to pay a huge punitive fine not just repay the ticket money. I'm still trying to figure out how they get by the whole "without due process" thing. I mean we can't let something silly like the constitution stand in the way of profits
Link Posted: 4/16/2008 3:57:03 AM EST
anyone ever got one of these tickets here in Ga and notice that you dont even pay an actual department? they are turned over to a collections agency to get the money
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