“Photo Red” Cameras Planned for Area

Both city and county staff are recommending the installation of photo red cameras, Seth Rosen writes in the Progress, which could be in place in a year’s time. The General Assembly authorized localities to install the cameras during their session earlier this year. The city is permitted to add them to four intersections, the county at nine. Municipal staff haven’t made a proposal to their respective elected bodies just yet, since they’re still reviewing the available equipment.

Opponents of photo red cameras point out that VDOT’s own study shows that installing them increases the number of accidents, and that many localities don’t make any money on them at all, because the systems are outsourced. The other problem is that the $50 fine is to be paid by the owner the car; because the driver isn’t pulled over by police, though, the driver can easily challenge the ticket and claim that he wasn’t driving.

The Hook recently demonstrated that the town’s most frequently run red light has such a short green light that only one car can get through. They found a car ran that 29/Rio red every single time that the light changed. Seems to me that there’s no need for a camera — a pair of cops could sit there and tag-team light runners all day long. Heck, I’d bring ’em a glass of iced tea to thank them for their troubles.

25 thoughts on ““Photo Red” Cameras Planned for Area”

  1. Only one car can get through the light on Hydraulic where it crosses 29 during rush hour traffic. As cars get backed up further south on Emmett Street, southbound drivers begin blocking the intersection. Then the cars Hydraulic begin running the light after they’ve had to sit through two or three 10-second light changes. I’m no rocket scientist, but it seems to me that adjusting the signal patterns might be easier and cheaper than installing red light cameras.

  2. Heck, I’d bring ‘em a glass of iced tea to thank them for their troubles.

    I’d bring VDOT a glass of iced tea for their troubles if they changed the timing at that light and instituted the 1 second ‘all-red’ intersection clearance philosophy, instead of the blatant money grab this is.

    I’ve been googling around for a bit without success, but there was an intersection in DC that had intentionally set the yellow light to be too short (shorter than what the law on hand was), and was raking in ridiculous amounts of money from it until the press caught on.

  3. You must polish up on your Google skills! :) Seriously, I remembered that it was on a bridge in D.C., not a “real” traffic light, and that helped… quoting…

    “May 19, 2000 – Washington Post reveals DC “Gotcha” red light camera installation. DC later “forgives” “violators” but does not give money back: “At one point, it generated $10,000 a day in fines, snapping pictures of dozens of drivers who were caught in the act. But now it turns out that the most active camera in the District’s war against red-light runners–billing $1.5 million in just over six months–is a high-tech trap for motorists. Perched on the H Street bridge in Northeast Washington, just off the busy North Capitol Street corridor, the camera set up by Lockheed Martin IMS patrols an intersection that isn’t an intersection and monitors a traffic light that isn’t a conventional traffic light. Sid Davis, who was “caught” in the act back in November, calls it “an ambush light.” …. “”I don’t think I can go back over the year and retry each one of those cases in theory,” said Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer. “The truth of the matter is that people were running the red light, but I believe we can clarify how we ought to regulate traffic over there.” [Seeing Red Over ‘Gotcha’ Camera”, Arthur Santana, The Washington Post, 5/19/00]”

    On a more amusing light, spray invisible glitter onto your license plate. It appears clear, unless hit by a camera flash! Serious Google randomness…

  4. maybe someone should consider entering their video camera into the next city council election, since it seems cameras are the solution to all the city’s problems.

  5. I’m not a rocket scientist, either, but perhaps the solution at Hydraulic and 29 is to prosecute the intersection-blockers.

    In Los Angeles intersection-blocking is considered a significant public-safety issue, and they prosecute it vigorously.

    It’s also really, really selfish, stupid, dangerous behavior.

  6. Thank you, Hawkins — I start cursing in my car when I’m sitting at a red light at an intersection (usually Hydraulic & 29) and I see fools heading through the green light when it is stone-obvious that the traffic in the intersection is not going to clear in time for them to be out of it when the light changes. It’s not that hard to figure out — you approach the intersection, you can see that the light has been green for some time, you see that you are joining a huge, slow-moving line of cars, you do the math and figure out that the odds are against you clearing the intersection…so why the frick not pause before entering the intersection? if you’re wrong and there is plenty of time to get through, then just zip on through. the fools sitting there in the middle of the intersection when the other light turns green always seem to have this “what, why are you honking at me?” look on their faces, as if they were somehow powerless to avoid the situation.

    me-first driving attitudes are one of my biggest peeves…

  7. I for one, would be much more willing to sit at a longer red light if it meant that more than one car could go through when it turns green. The intersection at Rio/29 is horrible, especially if you’re turning left. The intersection itself is so large that one can enter the intersection on green and still get caught turning red, particularly if you are following a truck.

  8. The key to cutting down on red light runners are two things:

    1) Longer (or Long enough) Green lights.
    2) A long Yellow.

    In L.A. they cut down on the number of red light runners by combining the photo enforced light with a longer Yellow.

    Now didn’t Virginia get rid of Photo enforced a few years ago because they said it violated the right to due process or some other such stuff??

    I think it’s just a Bullshit excuse for more revenue.

  9. Actually from everything I could find on the subject, photo red tends to be revenue neutral for jurisdictions TrvinMn.

  10. i think they’d make a killing if they put a red light camera on preston in front of bodo’s. three times in the last week i’ve seen cars roll through one of those two lights.

  11. They need to not tell us where the cams are. They also need to randomly switch where the cams are. We need to always be on alert. As long as they don’t use it to put me in the nick for sparking a fatty in front of a camera.

  12. I agree that maybe some maintenance of traffic lights and study/change of patterns should be a priority above installing cameras. The light at Madison and Preston is frequently broken, so that the red light never turns green even when the others are red. I run it (very carefully) when this occurs, and I think any red-blooded cop would understand that, while a computerized monitor might not.

  13. confused here:

    1) cameras on the downtown mall equals big brother is watching. That is bad

    2) cameras on the stop lights equals good?

    so what is the difference?

  14. Now I’m the one who’s confused. Has any individual here first asserted that cameras on the Downtown Mall are bad for privacy reasons but then asserted that they don’t present privacy concerns on stoplights?

  15. Waldo beat me to the punch — I too have noticed a wild proliferation of strawpeople on Cvillenews lately … imaginary posters making absurd and self-contradictory arguments.

  16. These “red light” cameras are a total scam. The worst part is it’s made into “law” for these privately-held red-light cam scamming operations. Do some research PEOPLE, godammit! They do only one thing well: line the pockets of the operators. There’s actually a resultant decrease in safety at the intersections where these are installed. This country has turned into a police-state where individual rights are trampled upon everywhere you go!!! Wake up people!

  17. I’ve heard of reports (I don’t know where, however), in which some drivers are more likely to slam on the brakes at yellow, to avoid a ticket from the camera. The result is an increase in rear-end accidents. Has anyone else heard this?

  18. Sylvia, I’ve heard those conclusions as well — essentially trading one kind of risk (i.e., side-impact collision of the car pulling into the intersection on the green being hit by the car running through the red) for another kind of risk (rear-end collisions). I haven’t seen the numbers on either kind, but if you give me the choice, I’d rather have an increase in rear-end collisions than the risk of getting t-boned by someone running a red.

  19. That’s from VDOT’s own study. Their first study was done in 2005 (PDF), and it found a clear cause: installing red light cameras at intersections caused an increase in total crashes, an enormous increase in rear-end crashes, and an increase in injuries caused by crashes.

    VDOT had a follow-up study released just three weeks ago (PDF) that I just now learned about. This more detailed study verified all of the conclusions in the prior study but found that the figures varied wildly by intersection. Some intersections become markedly more dangerous once red light cameras are installed, while others become safer. (Though more become more dangerous.) This isn’t surprising, at least on first reaction — installing a red light camera at the corner of Water and 2nd NE would probably not make the intersection unsafe, because people hardly ever run that light. Installing one at the corner of 29 and Rio, on the other hand, could well make the intersection much more dangerous). In the abstract, the authors write:

    When the comprehensive crash costs for rear-end and angle crashes are monetized, the cameras are associated with an increase in crash costs in some jurisdictions (e.g., an annual increase of $140,883 in Arlington) and a net reduction in comprehensive crash costs in other jurisdictions (e.g., an annual reduction of $92,367 in Vienna). When these results are aggregated across all six jurisdictions, the cameras are associated with a net increase in comprehensive crash costs. However, when considering only injury crashes, if the three fatal angle crashes that occurred during the after period are removed from the analysis (the only fatalities that occurred during the study out of 1,168 injury crashes), then the cameras were associated with a modest reduction in the comprehensive crash cost for injury crashes only.

    These results cannot be used to justify the widespread installation of cameras because they are not universally effective. These results also cannot be used to justify the abolition of cameras, as they have had a positive impact at some intersections and in some jurisdictions. The report recommends, therefore, that the decision to install a red light camera be made on an intersection-by- intersection basis. In addition, it is recommended that a carefully controlled experiment be conducted to examine further the impact of red light programs on safety and to determine how an increase in rear-end crashes can be avoided at specific intersections.

    The authors also make sure to point out that there is no decrease in rear-end crash rates over time. Camera proponents had argued that, over time, people would become accustomed to the red light camera there, and learn to space themselves out better. No such effect was found.

    Finally, they point out that this study doesn’t permit them to determine whether these cameras cost more money than the save. That is, whether the significant increase in accidents and the increased dollar value of those accidents (indicating that the total accident severity increases) is offset by the income generated by charging people $50/pop for running the red.

    Oh, and one more thing. This paragraph from the 2005 study:

    There is a practical issue with regard to issuing citations for red light running: the Code of Virginia requires that an in-person summons, rather than certified mail, be used to compel an individual to appear in court. Because of the high cost of delivering summonses outside Virginia, this requirement could make the programs administratively difficult for some localities if it became commonly known that only an in-person summons can require a vehicle owner either to pay the penalty or to appear in court.

    That seems like a problem.

  20. Well, lets adjust the dern lights,and all agree to slow to a stop on Yellow! I too am amazed at the few cars that cam make it through Rio / 29 , and Hydraulic / 29. Maybe more complaints about a intersection and something might get changed.


  21. OK, so I’m a lot late on this….

    However, if they’re gonna install those blankety-blank cameras, they should raise the left turn lane signals high enough overhead so that one can actually view them over a semitruck trailer! Many times I’ve had to proceed blindly into a 29N intersection on a left turn because there’s a 53′ trailer in front of me. There is simply no way to see the color of the light, and one is forced to assume its green or endure the wrath of the other cars in queue. If I wait to actually get a view of the light, it’s quite often too late to enter the intersection, and boy, does that piss people off. If I get one of those tickets on a left turn, inadequate signal height will be my defense!

    I also want to know why the yellow lights on 29 (esp. Rio) aren’t currently timed long enough for the average vehicle travelling at the posted speed to pass completely through the intersection? Uhhh… shouldn’t THAT be the standard specific to each intersection?

    (Just don’t get me started on why nobody stops at intersections when the traffic lights are out.)

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