What To Do If A Red Light Camera Catches You- FAQs

1- Why do governmental agencies install red light camera systems?

The Official buzz word used by almost all of the governmental agencies to justify the installation of red light camera systems is “Safety”. Most agencies claim that red light cameras reduce the number of accidents at intersections by reducing the number of red light violations. According to a 2004 study by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), crashes caused by running red light resulted in 854 fatalities and more than 168,000 injuries. Such studies have been used to make compelling arguments for the installation of red light camera systems. However, rarely there is a reference made to before and after studies that analyze the number of accidents after the red light camera systems are installed.

2- Do red light camera systems reduce accidents at intersection?

According to a comprehensive study conducted by Federal Highway Administration, which included 132 intersections across the country; including El Cajon, San Diego and San Francisco, the use of red light camera systems generated the following results:

-25% decrease in total right-angle accidents

-16% reduction in injury right angle accidents

-15% increase in total rear-end accidents

-24% increase in injury rear-end accidents

As it is evident in the data the red light camera systems reduce one type of accident, however they result in an increase in another. Therefore, a blanket statement that automated red light camera enforcement is used to increase safety at signalized intersections is not accurate. Do you want to learn more? Visit what to do if a red light camera catches you.

3- How are the locations for red light camera systems selected for installation?

Most agencies conducted an analysis of the accidents at signalized intersection. The locations with the highest level of accidents due to running red light are selected for evaluation. According to standards set by FHWA, initially the agencies are supposed to look at deficiencies in the design and configuration of traffic signals at intersections that may contribute to red light violation related accidents. For example, inadequate stopping distance or limited visibility of the traffic signal may be the reason for running red light.   After all possible physical improvements have been made to improve the intersection then a red light camera system may be considered for installation. One of the most important considerations for reducing running red light violations at intersections is the traffic signal timing. Research studies have shown that inadequate traffic signal timing tends to increase running red light violations.

4- How do I know if possible engineering counter-measures were implemented to reduce running red light violations at an intersection where I received a red light

camera ticket ?

This is where things get a little more technical. Most people will not be able to determine if a traffic signal design, installation and the operation was done according to industry standards or any modifications made to the red light operation. It takes years of experience and expertise to be able to determine the deficiencies of a traffic signal operation at an intersection, especially to fight red light camera tickets in traffic court. This is where the help of a red light camera ticket expert can make a difference between getting the red light camera ticket dismissed or not. However, we have listed a few of the deficiencies here; traffic signal head visibility, additional traffic signal head, all red clearance interval, yellow clearance time, intersection warning signs, advanced yellow flashing lights, approach speed, traffic signal coordination, advanced vehicle detection.

5- Can a red light camera ticket be dismissed based on deficiencies in the traffic signal operation?

Yes, driver behavior at a red light is influenced by the design and the operation of traffic control devices including traffic signals. Therefore, drivers are more likely to run red lights at locations where the traffic signal installation and the operation were not in compliance with the State and Federal standards. The most important issue to successfully fight red light camera tickets in traffic court is obviously first to be able to identify the deficiencies in the red light camera system and the traffic signal operation and then be able to explain it to the judge in traffic court in a clear and concise manner with detailed exhibits and references to the specific California Vehicle Code sections and other applicable red light manuals.

6- How does the yellow clearance time affect red light camera tickets ?

After the installation of a red light camera system, the yellow clearance time will affect the number of red light camera tickets issued at a location. An increase in the yellow clearance time will result in a decrease in the number of red light camera tickets and a decrease in the yellow clearance time interval will result in an increase in the number of red light camera tickets.

7- To reduce running red light violations and increase safety, why the agencies do not increase the yellow clearance time at intersections?

That is a very valid question. Most probable answer is that red light camera tickets generate a tremendous amount of money for most governmental agencies and the private vendors that operate the cameras.

8- Can inadequate yellow clearance time at an intersection be grounds to dismiss red light camera ticket ?

Yes, if the traffic signal timing is set in such a manner that the yellow clearance time does not meet the minimum yellow clearance time, then that can be grounds to dismiss red light camera tickets.

9- What are the components in a red light camera system?

A red light camera system consists of the following on-street components:

Camera Units

-Intersection lighting

-Camera housing and support structure

-Vehicle detection


-Warning signs

10- What type of red light camera units are there?

There are three general types of camera units used to automatically record red light

violations, as shown below:

-35 mm conventional film unit

-Digital video units

-Digital still picture units

11- How do red light camera systems detect cars running red light ?

There are vehicle detectors that are used to trigger the red light cameras to record a vehicle speed approaching an intersection and potentially running red lights.

12- What are red light camera vehicle detectors?

A great majority of red light camera systems employ two sets of in ground traffic signal inductive loops installed near the intersection. However, it is critical for the loops to be installed in appropriate positions to prevent the issuance of unwarranted red light camera tickets. Therefore, the integrity of the red light camera system depends heavily on the loop detectors as well as the minimum yellow clearance time. If the loop detectors are not properly installed that argument may be used to dismiss red light camera tickets.

13- What is the purpose of the advanced loop detectors?

Most of the software used to operate the red light camera systems rely on data transmitted from the advanced loops installed in advance on the approach to the intersection. The purpose of the advanced loops is to estimate the approach speed of a vehicle. Depending on preset thresholds based on speed, the red light cameras are activated to record the approaching vehicles that are likely to run red lights.