County to Crack Down on Red Light Runners

Albemarle County Police are going to start ticketing people for running red lights on 29 North, CBS 19 reports. All of next week, the cops will be going after folks along the corridor. A paltry 284 tickets were issued for running reds in the entirety of the country during the whole of 2007. It was two and a half years ago that the Progress‘ Jessica Kitchin sat and watched a half hour of rush hour traffic at the intersection of Rio and 29 and found that somebody ran the red every single time. At $161 a throw, I’d think that intersection would be a license for the county police to print money. And if that’s a money-losing proposition for the department, then the county needs to increase the fine.

In case it’s not obvious, red light runners make me furious. (Note to self: You must now never, ever get caught running a red.)

41 Responses to “County to Crack Down on Red Light Runners”


  • Waldo, Rt 29 is just dangerous. Everyone appears to have the attitude that “one more car” won’t make a difference when the light turns red. I hear folks complain that the lights aren’t long enough, etc. That really doesn’t make a difference. When the light is red you can’t enter the intersection. With the possible exception of an ambulance I can’t think of anyone that can’t wait 5 or 10 more minutes to get wherever they are going. We all seem to have an inflated opinion of how important our personal schedules are (at the expense of anyone else).

  • With the possible exception of an ambulance I can’t think of anyone that can’t wait 5 or 10 more minutes to get wherever they are going.

    Umm… fire trucks? ;)

  • yes, there are other exceptions. Please excuse my “rush” to get through “this” intersection……

  • Here here. Along with the massively inflated opinion of one’s own important schedule goes the “I’ll make my personal problem everyone else’s problem” attitude. Socializing the costs of one’s own screw-ups, so to speak. “I’m running late, so I’ll try to speed down the 250 By-Pass and everyone in front of me should move over to allow me to speed,” they think. Why is your lateness — your own personal problem — now my problem, just because I’m in front of you, that I have to help you solve by moving over?

    I wonder if this crackdown is a response to the death of Sidney Aichs, the 16 year old girl killed at the intersection of Ashwood and 29 North? The truck that hit her car was allegedly going through a red light.

  • Cecil, I think that the association of the red light crackdown with the recent tragedy is correct. I didn’t want to raise that issue in deference to the family. However, if this will prevent just one other instance of that tragedy from happening again, then I support it.

  • Running red lights is so ingrained in Charlottesville culture that I bet we’ll see an increase in accidents for a little while. I confess, on a cross-country road trip a couple years back, I nearly rear-ended people several times out in the West and Midwest when they slowed down as the light turned amber. When was the last time you saw anyone around here slow down for a yellow light?! No no, we speed up!

    We’ll see if this campaign actually makes a difference all around town or just on 29…. it’ll take a lot more than one period of ticketing to change this bad local habit.

  • I ride my bike to and from work on a daily basis. At least once a week, I’ll be coming up to a light that turns yellow and, as I slow to a stop (yes, I do in fact stop for red lights & stop signs), a car that up until that point had been following behind me, will decide to blow by me and run the red. I just shake my head in bewilderment.

  • This enforcement is a welcome activity but will we never learn that “surge enforcement” is not a solution, only temporary relief.

    Continuing enforcement is required.

  • If Jessica Kitchin’s observations are the norm, then it will probably take at least 30 officers at each intersection along 29N to catch all of the red light runners alone. It takes a long time for each officer to write up a ticket.

  • I completely support this effort. Until/unless the timing of the lights is changed in this area, I think we all need to learn to treat yellow lights as if they were red.(I am still trying to remember this myself.) I agree that this needs to be an ongoing effort rather than a law enforcement “surge”. Also, this seems like a good time to seriously look at a fine increase for speeding in AC.

  • If Jessica Kitchin’s observations are the norm, then it will probably take at least 30 officers at each intersection along 29N to catch all of the red light runners alone.

    Well, there’s certain a suppression effect that comes of seeing a police car, light flashing, when you’re pulling up to an intersection. Surely the presence of police would result in a significant drop-off in light-running.

    It takes a long time for each officer to write up a ticket.

    That’s why I suggest that an increase in the fine may be necessary. If the time that it takes to write up a ticket is a loser, financially, for the department, then the price needs to be increased. That, I think, is just sound economics.

  • Traveling the Rio part of 29n it’s often possible to leave the intersection on a red light while entering on a green. I’ve had people slow down in the intersection, I will enter on the green, the light will change and suddenly I’m leaving the intersection while it’s red.

    The problem here is the intersection is just too wide and normal comparison to a standard intersection are’nt fair. Give me a Rio over/underpass like it needs.

    Waldo, higher fines for this and speeding tickets will turn poor people into scofflaws and/or make officers not want to enforce them.

  • I don’t buy that logic for a minute. Anybody who habitually runs red lights is already a scofflaw; enforcing the law won’t make any difference. And “poor people”? Do you have some reason to believe that income and patience are correlated? If this were a victimless crime, fine, I’d think you could have a point, I just wouldn’t agree with you. But running red lights is the major cause of intersection accidents. We just had a girl die on 29N for this very reason.

    Yes, the light timing sucks. But you and I both know that people run the a red light every few minutes at just about every major intersection on 29. And even if the light timing sucks, that’s not a license to drive into an intersection when the light is red. And if you believe otherwise, I hope a ticket or two will convince you otherwise.

  • Waldo, I am a supporter of the now-defunct abusive driver fees (no stab wounds please) and I think they should have been levied to out-of-staters, too. Bad driving is usually a voluntary act and, rich, poor, or in between, “If you don’t want to pay the fine, don’t croos the line.” I would like to see the whole city covered by the $200-fine-for-speeding program. Irresponsible people should pay for their irresponsible behavior. Sock it to ’em! As Councilor Edwards said, we have to change the culture on our highways.

  • I don’t think I said/meant habitually- more inadvertent. Further you missed my other point of ENTERING the intersection while green. Repeat offenders should certainly be dealt with harshly. Let’s get those idiots who dawdle at lights because they are on their cellphones and texters as well. I would prefer that cell calls be banned while driving. I just want fines to be proportional not seem like revenue enhancements

    The guy who ran the red light is being charged with manslaughter not just running a red light. If I drive a truck of several tons I need to be more cautious. Conversely if I get caught in a intersection 3/4 of the way when the light changes red, a $300 fine seems like a lot of money.

    Question: Do you always go the posted speed limit?

  • Further you missed my other point of ENTERING the intersection while green.

    That’s perfectly legal.

    The guy who ran the red light is being charged with manslaughter not just running a red light.

    What of it? The reason he ran a red light is (presumably) because he believed he could do so without a negative result. He had no fear of killing anybody, nor did he have any fear of getting a ticket.

    When an law goes unenforced, the citizenry believes that it is an unnecessary law.

    Conversely if I get caught in a intersection 3/4 of the way when the light changes red, a $300 fine seems like a lot of money.

    That would be a lot, if it were a ticket-able offense. But it’s not.

    Do you always go the posted speed limit?

    I absolutely do. I drive 64mph clear to Richmond when I take 64, though lately I’ve been taking 250, so that’s moot. Never have I received a speeding ticket, been pulled over, or been in any danger of either. Some tell me that it’s a personality flaw (usually people who have been my passenger), but I just try to live my life in a manner that doesn’t require hurrying.

  • I think talking on a cell phone or texting while driving should be illegal. I do not think that “dawdling” itself should be illegal, though, if “dawdling” just means “didn’t stomp on the gas fast enough to suit the impatient driver behind one.” If I’m the first one off the line at a light that turns green, and I don’t stomp on the accelerator immediately — maybe I wait a beat or two, to make sure no one is running the red coming the other way — I don’t call that dawdling. If the impatient person behind me doesn’t like it, that’s not my problem.

    I don’t speed, which I define as I don’t go more than 3-5 miles over the limit if the limit is 35 or higher. If I’m on a residential street with a 25 mph speed limit, I don’t go higher than 25. On the By-pass, when I’m doing something like 40 on the part that is marked 35, most other drivers are generally blowing by me, doing at least 45 (in the 35 zone) and usually more. Sometimes I’m in the left lane, not speeding, because I know I have to exit on the left, and some drivers REALLY seem torqued off that I’m not (a) speeding fast enough for them, or (b) moving over to the right to better facilitate their speeding.

    Really, it’s not that hard not to speed.

  • Waldo–if you drive 64mph on the interstate then you’re not helping to make the highway safer. Most of the time that’s well below the flow of traffic, and you’re forcing additional breaking and lane changes, and thus increasing the likelihood of an accident. Get off your high horse and use some common sense.

  • WTF? That’s never been slower than the speed of traffic. I’m generally in a soporific column of cars, all drifting towards Richmond at the speed limit. It’s not a “high horse” — I was answering a direct question about the speed that I drive. The notion that I ought to apologize for driving the speed limit is ridiculous.

  • Someone who is driving the speed limit isn’t *forcing* anyone else to do anything. If someone else chooses to speed and then needs to brake or swerve to avoid colliding with a car moving at the speed limit, that’s the speeder’s (selfish, uncivil) choice. Chris makes it sound like speeders are being victimized by the law-abiding — how perverse.

  • Agreed 100% Waldo. Even better if this was a year-round, all over the county AND city effort, and not just a token, one week enforcement on 29. And while they’re at it, I’d love to see the cops going after stop-sign runners, right-on-red runners, speeders, aggressive drivers, etc etc etc. Seems like an easy source of revenue. Drivers in this area have gotten used to the idea that cops don’t give tickets, and all of our roads are more dangerous as a result.

  • After Waldo said he went the speed limit (which I believe) it told me that further discussion about the gray areas was not going anywhere. I think many people might speed that won’t break any other law. For me it goes back to driving 55 on highways designed to go 70. Millions of tax dollars wasted on overbuilding. Many, if not most, people ignored those laws and finally speed limits were changed. Not the ideal way to change a law but just the way it happened.

    Still gettin’ mad at people for obeying the law is pretty silly. The biggest danger on the highway is by people who think where they need to be is more important then the safety of those around them.

    Cecil I hear you, dawdling because of the cell phone is what I meant. Being cautious and responsible after the green is certainly the way to go.

  • I think many people might speed that won’t break any other law. For me it goes back to driving 55 on highways designed to go 70.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. A major urban planning mistake is engineering roads for high speeds, but then restricting the speed through signage. Really, we shouldn’t have to determine the speed limit by looking at signs — it should be obvious based on the road’s design. So when you’re on a 40′ wide suburban street, clearly engineered for 45mph, it’s easy to find yourself driving that speed, rather than the posted 15mph. Though obviously the fault lies with the driver in that instance, the solution to habitual speeding on that road lies with the municipality, who ought to reengineer the road.

  • Agreed that any form of not paying attention to the *legitimate* needs and rights of other drivers is BAD: other drivers need to know whether or not you’re planning to turn, so use your turn signals, other drivers have a right to get through an intersection if they are the 2nd or 3rd car in line at the intersection, so get off your damn phone and start moving, etc. Our driving culture is, in my experience, one in which self-centeredness reigns supreme. Not surprising, of course, given that this IS the United States, after all.

    I just think that someone’s desire to break the law by speeding (that is, to ignore what highway engineers and traffic planners have decided is the safest and most efficient speed that a particular road can handle and to replace that expert knowledge with one’s own half-assed inexpert assessment of the situation — “oh, I think I’m such a skilled driver that surely I can drive 20 miles per hour more than those pansy experts suggest without causing myself any problems, and if I cause anyone else a problem, it must be THEIR problem for obeying the speed limit!”) is not a legitimate need.

  • I may be remembering incorrectly, but, when I-64 was built, the speed limit was 65 or 70 mph. In the seventies, with the oil embargo, we needed to save gasoline. It was said that the cars at that time ran most efficiently at 50 to 55 mph. So, in order to save gasoline nationwide, the speed limit was lowered to 55 mph for a period. Later, it was raised to 65 mph.
    Like Waldo, I set my cruise control less than the speed limit and I have never seen any accident in front of, behind or beside me ever, even involving those who pass me traveling 85 mph.

  • My gas gauge isn’t precise enough to know, but I have to suspect that I’m saving fuel by taking 250 to and from Richmond, since I’m only going 55mph. But, really, it’s just such a nice drive compared to 64 that the fuel savings are just an excuse. :)

  • The worst case of a car running a red light that I have personally witnessed was none other than an Albemarle County police car. Right in front of Cheeseburger in Paradise southbound. I had left Office Depot, had a green light, and taken a left onto 29 when he came through the intersection about 75 to 80 mph. Never even attempted to slow up. Couldn’t see his blue lights in daylight, and couldn’t hear his siren because of the air conditioning being on and the windows up. If I had been 2 seconds faster he would have struck the passenger door on my Cadillac and most certainly killed my then 12-year-old daughter who was out with me shopping. The irony is this might be one of the officers out there now writing other people a summons for running a red light.

  • I agree that running red lights is a deadly problem. I also believe that drivers driving 70 or 75 or even 80 can coexist peacefully with drivers who want to drive 55. Problems arise when slow drivers (i.e., driving the speed limit) get in the left-hand (fast) lane and refuse to move. In many, many other countries, drivers have been taught that there is a slow lane and a fast lane. Here in the USA you frequently find someone driving 55 (or slower) in the left lane of major highways with dozens of vehicles trying to get around them. These fast drivers eventually cut into the adjacent lane or lanes to get around them, sometimes with middle finger extended. Such herky-jerky driving movements endanger other motorists. I am convinced that the slow driver in the fast lane is also part of the problem.

  • Wow. Those obeying the law by going the speed limit are responsible for the actions of those breaking the law? Painful logic, there, Cynic.

  • It’s called practical logic, involving what is really happening in the world. It’s painful, but teaching slow traffic to stay right is a better option than an accident.

  • On interstate/limited access highways, I stick to the right lane, since I don’t go much over the posted speed limit. On something like 29N or the 250 By-pass, however, if I know I have a left-hand turn coming up, I get in the left lane well ahead of time, since I don’t want to have to slow down to cut over three lanes of traffic to make my turn in time. In those situations, I don’t speed up even though I’m in the left-most lane. 29 and 250 are not highways–there’s no “passing lane” like there is on an interstate highway. So people behind me who want to speed can just piss off. And if they cause an accident by weaving and cutting to get ahead of me, that’s not my fault.

    And Cynic, you can all them fast drivers, but that seems a euphemism for “speeders.”

  • Whether they are speeders on the interstate or not, if you are purposely in the passing lane attempting to block people from speeding, you’re being a jerk (censoring my language here).

    “The Uniform Vehicle Code states:

    Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic …

    Note that this law refers to the “normal” speed of traffic, not the “legal” speed of traffic. The 60 MPH driver in a 55 MPH zone where everybody else is going 65 MPH must move right. Contrast Alaska’s rule, 13 AAC 002.50, allowing vehicles driving at the speed limit to use the left lane, and Colorado rev. stat. 42-4-1103, prohibiting blocking the “normal and reasonable” movement of traffic. ”

    VA law in particular:

    46.2-842.1 requires vehicles in the left lane to yield to faster traffic; State Police say this applies even when faster traffic is speeding.

    So there you go. You are not the police. Let them handle that, move over to the lane you should be in in the first place and defuse the situation.

  • I would like to thank Chad Day for coming to my rescue….and I would like to add that allowing speeders to get past you can be an emotional or mental leap for some people. I made this leap a long time ago when a friend told me that a trip to the hospital had been slowed down by someone refusing to get over. I now extend to others the courtesy that I wish had been extended to my friend. I assume that they have somewhere to get to. Though some of them are just speeders, I no longer question their reasons for wanting to go fast. I don’t want to answer for the possible consequences of slowing someone else down.

  • Of course, in court, a truck may be driven through the holes in the quoted Vehicle Code.

  • Only if that truck moves to the right of that hole in the Vehicle Code

  • Ok, can you move to the right if going only the speed limit folks at least recognize that Rt. 29/250 in Charlottesville/Albemarle, are NOT highways in the sense that Rt 81/64 are?? No one is trying to get into or out of their neighborhoods directly onto 81!!!

  • I agree that getting over to the left lane on a limited access/interstate highway for the sole purpose of going slower than passing traffic, to box in or slow down speeders, is just as hostile and aggressive as tailgating and other kinds of aggressive driving behaviors. I’ve ridden with drivers who want to “teach a lesson” to speeders by boxing them in by plugging the left lane and cruising along next to another slower driver in the right lane. The idiot who wants to speed is quite likely to get more aggressive and try to squeeze through a gap or cut you off. It’s not worth it.

    But that’s not what I was talking about in my earlier post. 29N before you get to Target/Airport Road etc. is not an interstate highway. There are a kajillion valid reasons to be in the left lane other than passing (I’m travelling north and I want to go to Whole Foods, for example). When I get over to the left lane before I pass Toys R’Us, I’m not obligated then to gun it up to 55 to keep pace with the speeder behind me.

    For most of its stretch, 250 by-pass is the same way.

  • Technically, the UVC states “all roadways”, though I think most people are understanding of roads with frequent left turn lanes.

  • Thanks for link Moo. It’s really a shame that there so many irresponsible drivers on the road. The “week” was actually a period of five days.

  • Whatever. I just saw a county police officer almost get t-boned by a coffee-drinking red-light runner – and kept on his merry way. Consistency, people. Consistency. (so long as it’s not me you’re pulling over)

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