Red light cameras are for traffic law enforcement, and they are able to take photos of vehicles illegally passing through intersections when the light is red. By doing this, these cameras provide evidence for law enforcement officials. Cameras are synced with the light’s changing patterns to ensure they will only go off when there are red lights. The camera is able to take a photo of the license plate, which is scanned for an address. Law enforcement then mails a ticket to the offender. These cameras are now being used in many countries throughout the world.
While authorities remain firm in their stance that these cameras contribute to public safety, many drivers say they only scare them into making sudden stops that could cause rear-end collisions during a yellow light. They also say they believe the cameras are more for financial gain by law enforcement than for public safety. It seems they are somewhat correct about rear-end crashes. Researchers say that rear-end crashes are more common in intersections with red light cameras, but they also tend to have fewer right-angle crashes. The overall rate is mixed enough they cannot provide a definitive average by lumping the two together.
Red light cameras originated in the Netherlands but have been used since the 1960s worldwide and since the 1980s in the United States. Older types of red light cameras used film for their photos, which was sent to law enforcement officials to view. Digital systems started appearing in the 2000s and have gained popularity since then.
How Red Light Cameras Work
These devices are usually installed inside metal boxes, which are affixed to intersection poles in locations prone to accidents. In addition to the camera boxes, there are usually inductive loops set below the pavement to measure the vehicle’s speed as it travels through the intersection. This helps determine whether the vehicle would have been able to stop before going through the intersection. Two photos are taken for each incident for this purpose.
Some of the details the camera records are the location of the incident, the time, the date and the speed of the vehicle. In some cases, the entire incident may be captured in a video clip instead of a series of photos. However, the incident must include a photo of the vehicle entering the intersection and passing through it. Whether the images come from film or a digital device, they are sent to local law enforcement. An officer or clerk will review the data and images to determine whether a citation should be mailed. Vehicle owners can still challenge the citations if they feel the information is incorrect.
Researchers say that nearly 40 percent of violations happen within one-fourth of a second of the light turning red. About 80 percent of incident happen within one second of the light changing to red. There are grace periods permitted by some red light camera systems, which allow up to one-half of a second if drivers go through the intersection at the same time the light is changing to red.
Some states have their own laws regarding the timing of red light cameras, which vary from the averages. However, some states have laws against the use of traffic camera enforcement. People who are curious about the laws in their own states should discuss any concerns with an agent. Laws can change from one year to the next, so it is important to stay current on this issue and to know what to expect.
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