More Cities Are Using Red-Light Cameras to Nab Motorists

Posted August 27, 2009 in Criminal Law by

Not far from my house is a busy intersection with long traffic lights. Traffic can stack up, so it’s not unusual to sit though a couple cycles of the lights before you can pass through the intersection. Not surprisingly, many drivers push their luck in an effort to make it through the yellow light. But recently the city installed a red-light camera that photographs drivers who run red lights. I know more than one person who’s been surprised to find a traffic ticket in their mail after having been photographed running the light.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red-light cameras use sensors that trigger a camera when a car enters an intersection after a light turns red. The camera takes at least one or more photographs of the offending vehicle, and records the license plate number, date, time and location where the picture was taken. A ticket is then mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner. The camera is not triggered if a car is already in the intersection when the light turns red, and the cameras are often programmed to give vehicles a grace period of a fraction of a second after the light changes.

The IIHS argues that red-light cameras are responsible for at least a 25 percent reduction in injury-causing crashes, though other organizations dispute that claim. Opponents claim the cameras are nothing more than a tool to generate government revenue.

Fighting a Red-Light Ticket

If you receive a red-light ticket, there are a few ways to try to get it dismissed.

Your red-light ticket will be mailed with copies of the photograph showing your alleged violation, or the ticket will direct you to a website where you can view the photographs. Confirm that it’s actually your vehicle in the pictures, because errors do occur.

Also verify whether you are the person who was driving when the violation occurred. If someone else frequently drives you car, they may be the person who’s actually liable. Don’t make them simply reimburse you for the cost of the ticket; you want to transfer the ticket to their name so it doesn’t hurt your driving record.

Research your state’s laws about red-light tickets. If tickets need to mailed within a certain number of days, did you receive yours in a timely manner? Does the law require signs warning motorists that red-light cameras are in use? If it does, visit the intersection to confirm that the signs exist in accordance with the law, and take photographs if they are missing.

If you have legitimate reasons to argue that you shouldn’t have been ticketed, you’ll need to contest or challenge the citation. The ticket should include instructions explaining how you can fight the ticket in person or via mail. Take care to follow the instructions precisely. Regardless of whether you’re arguing the ticket aloud or in writing, thoroughly prepare your argument. Ask a friend to read your letter or listen to your reasons, then ask them for feedback. A detailed explanation and a well-prepared argument will help you fight your red-light ticket.

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