Rushing to make it to work on time, Bill sees the traffic light up ahead turn yellow. He speeds up to make it through the intersection, but the light changes to red before he makes it to the other side. When he doesn’t see any flashing blue lights tailing him, Bill breathes a sigh of relief assuming he didn’t get caught—or so he thought.
A week later, Bill is shocked to receive a ticket for $150 in the mail. As he dashed through the red light a week before, a small camera at the traffic light snapped a picture of his car and license plate number. The Department of Transportation then tracked down Bill as the registered owner of the car and mailed the ticket to his home address.
As more cities install red light and speeding cameras, tickets by mail (like the one Bill received) are becoming increasingly common. Obviously, drivers are never thrilled to receive a speeding or traffic violation ticket for $100 or more in the mail. Some argue the cameras are an invasion of their privacy while others complain that local police departments are just looking for a quick and easy way to boost their budgets.
Despite these protests, traffic violation cameras aren’t going away any time soon. Such cameras are skyrocketing in popularity throughout the nation. From San Diego, California to Atlanta, Georgia to Scottsdale, Arizona, cities across the country are activating these red light/speeding cameras. Traffic camera fines range anywhere from $100 to $500 or more.
Cities with traffic cameras enjoy a phenomenal return on their investment. As a matter of fact, red light/speed cameras in Cleveland, Ohio caught more than 2,300 traffic violators within the first month of operation. Each Cleveland red light violator was charged $100 per citation while speeders were fined between $150 and $200.
Many drivers complain that these red light and speeding cameras can lead to unfair tickets. For example, let’s say you let your sister borrow your car. If a camera snaps her running a red light, the ticket will be mailed to you because you are the registered owner.
Some states, like Georgia, give drivers a chance to contest the ticket if the owner was not driving the car when the violation occurred. However, other states say the owner of the car is responsible for paying the ticket regardless of who was driving their car.
An uptick in accidents
Some research show that red light and speeding cameras may lead to more traffic accidents. A 2008 study by the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health revealed red light cameras significantly increase crashes. This could be because drivers are stopping abruptly at intersections when the light turns yellow in fear that they will receive a camera violation. With so many cars slamming on the brakes at intersections where cameras are present, many cities have seen a sharp rise in rear-end collisions.
Studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have also reported cameras are linked with an increases in car crashes, including accidents involving injuries. A study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were associated with higher crash costs.
However, while rear-end collisions have increased in some areas, studies show that more serious side-impact crashes have decreased due to fewer drivers running red lights.
Driving up insurance rates?
Many drivers worry that these camera tickets will lead to higher car insurance premiums. In most states, camera tickets are considered civil penalties, so they should not result in points on your driver’s license or have an impact on your insurance rates. However, if you rear-end a driver who slams on their brakes at a camera-monitored intersection, you probably will see a hike in your car insurance premiums.