Red Light Cameras Still Catching Speeders Though Questions Remain

Many cities and counties have used red light cameras successfully to catch drivers who choose to speed through a red light rather than stop. Seems simple enough except that there is a timing element involved and just when exactly does that red light camera capture the photo of your driver’s license as you “break” the law?

Beaverton Oregon drivers found that one red light camera at an intersection there may have actually “tricked” them into going through a yellow light with the assumption that it would stay yellow for at least a few seconds before turning red. It is a split second decision whether or not to go through the yellow light or not and most drivers do assume that the yellow warning is just that, but there is a difference between going through a yellow light that gives is timed for 3.5 seconds and one that only allows just 1 before turning red. No driver

Apparently there are hundreds of drivers that received red light camera tickets while driving through this intersection and  since many felt that there was something off about the timing of yellow to red. When one engineer’s wife got a red light ticket, he took the matter to task and did a digital frame by frame timing of the change from yellow to red.

What’s not tough to gauge, according to a local engineer, is the timing of the yellow light. “This yellow light is real short, its 4-percent off,” said Mats Jarlstrom, an engineer with expertise in calibration and electronics.

When Jarlstrom’s wife got a ticket at Lombard and Allen, he used digital cameras, frame-by-frame, to test if the timing of the yellow lights were calibrated the way the City of Beaverton had claimed they were. “I measured about 3.35 seconds, which is about 4-percent shorter,” he said.

Read the article for more information.

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Some Atlanta Georgia Red Light Cameras Temporarily Inactive

Recently, the use of red lights cameras in Atlanta Georgia was temporarily halted, due to an inability to negotiate a final contract with a red light camera service provider needed to continue the program. Though a few red light cameras are still operating, city officials estimate the remaining cameras will be not be operational until mid May, the estimated date for completed contract negotiations. A driver caught running a red light by a red light camera in Atlanta Georgia can be fined $70 for the offense. Read the story from Ch 11 news

If you received a red light ticket or speeding ticket in Atlanta Georgia, contact an Atlanta GA speeding ticket lawyer today for traffic ticket defense.

Is Red Light Ticket Enforcement Coming To An End in Atlanta Georgia?

City officials in Atlanta have admitted that their enforcement of photo tickets issued as a result of red light traffic cameras, has ended. The cessation of the program was in part due to the city’s ignoring a 2009 law that mandated sending the second notice certified mail.  Thus, it looks like for all intents and purposes, Atlanta will join Los Angeles, CA and Houston Texas in shutting down their use of photo ticketing. What looked good in theory turned out to be more difficult to manage in practice.

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Atlanta GA Traffic Lawyer

Traffic Cameras on School Buses in Georgia

Traffic camera manufacturers Redflex and American Traffic Solutions are in talks with city councils and state legislature in many states including Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington and Louisiana to install traffic cameras mounted to school buses for live monitoring of surrounding traffic. According to Rick Gresham, transportation director for the Cobb County school district in Georgia approximately 1100 motorists pass the school buses in that county when the red stop sign on the bus is out, a dangerous hazard and a traffic violation.

The proposed plan would provide a live feed and if caught on camera and a photo “snapped” a ticket would be issued, 82% of the fine of which would go to the school district and the remaining portion to the police and for court costs.

Read the story now.


Alpharetta Georgia Considers Secuirty Cameras that Would Double As Traffic Cameras

The city of Alpharetta Georgia is considering the use of security cameras to protect and keep watch over communities, potentially modeling itself after the city of Sandy Springs, a city in Georgia currently using approximately 52 cameras to monitor and regulate various streets and areas. Atlanta, College Park, Duluth and Buckhead also use these cameras.

Alpharetta city council listened to the pros and cons of installing a system that could do double duty by using video for security and traffic monitoring and did not come up with any definitive resolution to move forward with the traffic/security cameras.  Some council members were outspoken about regarding the cameras as a little too much “big brother” for Alpharetta for now though the debate will continue.

Read the article

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Tenn. lawmakers learning from Ga. red light camera rules

Article from the Chatanooga Free Press, Published in the Rome Georgia News Tribune

NASHVILLE — A funny thing happened in Georgia after state lawmakers in 2008 required local governments to add an extra second of yellow light on traffic signals using cameras to catch drivers running red lights.

The number of camera-initiated tickets plummeted. So did enforcement revenues. As a result, some towns and cities, where officials previously had lauded photo enforcement’s impact on driver safety, decided to dump the camera program.

“It sort of exposed the myth of why those cameras are there,” observed Dalton, Ga., Mayor David Pennington, a photo-enforcement critic. “The reason that a lot of us were given was (it was) to prevent accidents.”

Other cities, including Lilburn, Ga., did not abandon their programs. It is unclear how many cities dropped their programs.

Georgia’s experience is not being lost on Tennessee, where legislative critics want to put a halt to what they contend are money-grabbing photo-enforcement programs across the state.

“It (Georgia) disincentivized it by taking away a lot of money,” said red-light critic Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, who called Georgia’s law “an option” for Tennessee.

Rep. McCord wants local governments to have “exhausted any and every engineering possibility before we go to the revenue side. I think that (extending yellow-light timing) is one of the ways of doing that.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Tennessee House Transportation Committee holds yet another round of hearings on the use of red-light and speeding cameras.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit insurance industry-backed group that studies and promotes highway safety, 16 Tennessee cities now use photo enforcement cameras to catch red-light runners or speeders or both, including Chattanooga and Red Bank.

Much of lawmakers’ ire appears directed at the red-light cameras as opposed to cities’ use of the cameras to nab speeders. Chattanooga uses cameras to discourage speeding through the deadly “S” shaped curves on Hixson Pike and several other locations.

Chattanooga traffic engineer John Van Winkle said he hopes lawmakers will exercise caution when evaluating traffic cameras.

Mandating an extra second of yellow time would create a lot more seemingly endless caution times for motorists, said Mr. Van Winkle, who is expected to testify at this week’s hearing.

Drivers “would think … ‘This stays yellow a long time. I know I can beat it.’ So they’re more inclined to speed up to try to beat the signal,” he said.

While some cities in Georgia have reported dramatic declines in red-light citations since the new law took effect, Mr. Van Winkle said the real issue is what is happening with serious collisions.

“That’s the main goal, to make the streets safer,” Mr. Van Winkle said.

When Dalton’s first full year of red-light enforcement began in 2008, the Georgia city, using a private contractor, issued 6,906 red-light camera citations, according to figures provided by Dalton police. In February 2008 alone, 624 camera citations were issued.

In February 2009, after the new law took effect, photo-enforcement citations plunged. Just 125 of the citations were issued — almost an 80 percent drop from the previous February.

Similar results wreaked havoc on a number of other programs. Several cities announced they were suspending their programs because they no longer were breaking even.

Among them was Lilburn, Ga., which at one point depended on the program for 8 percent of the city’s budget. Lilburn City Manager Bill Johnsa said the number of citations dropped from about 1,500 in January 2008 to 313 this past February.

Mr. Johnsa said while Lilburn initially suspended the program, City Council members wanted to keep it “because the numbers have shown that it does make intersections safer.” The city renegotiated its contract with private contractor LaserCraft Inc. and since has resumed a scaled back program, he said.

Mr. Van Winkle in previous testimony before the state House Transportation Committee has emphasized the success of traffic cameras changing driver behavior along Hixson Pike’s “S” curves and other areas plagued by speeders.

City figures show the number of photo-enforcement citations on the “S” curves went from 1,878 when the program was implemented in June 2007 to just 223 this September.

But he has been more circumspect in his testimony about the impact of red-light cameras. During an interview last week, he said red-light cameras can have an impact, citing the first traffic light officials tested. It had a “very high percentage” of dangerous “T-bone” or right-angle collisions and left-turn collisions, he said.

The city used flash cameras to cover all four approaches. Drivers noticed and “the accident rate plummeted,” Mr. Van Winkle said. “We changed driver behavior.”

Both programs have proved lucrative for Chattanooga. Since Chattanooga began photo enforcement in mid-2007, the program has taken in $2.7 million in revenue and netted $1.5 million after expenses by Oct. 15, 2009. The bulk of the net revenue — $1.15 million — stemmed from its fixed and mobile automated speed enforcement.

Just this month, Chattanooga opened its first driver’s education program for teens. The pilot project’s first year $100,000 price tag is funded by the $50 fines that come from the city’s photo-enforced traffic lights and speed cameras. The teens will pay just $50, down from a usual private course’s costs of about $400.

Article by Andy Sher

Many Georgia Towns and Cities Scrapping Red Light Cameras

Because of its proximity to us and its population concentration, the state of Georgia is a good place to look at trends that will most likely make their way to North Carolina. Or not. Remember the brouhaha we went through a few years ago about red light cameras, the pole-mounted devices that snap a picture of your license plate if you are in the intersection after the light has changed to red? I think we can stop worrying about that trend ever reaching N.C. in large numbers, as Georgia cities are removing the cameras from their “safety” arsenal. In fact, traffic cameras of all kinds are under siege across the country.

Towns and cities all across Georgia are scrapping the programs. Atlanta suburbs Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee all have put the program in park while they review the results, or have announced plans to take the cameras down altogether.

Unforeseen drawbacks
For one thing, rear-end collisions increase greatly when red light cameras are in use. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a 49 percent increase (from 65 to 97) in rear-enders at traffic camera intersections in my hometown of Marietta from 2004-05, when the cameras were installed. The town of Duluth saw a 21 percent increase in accidents, from 75 to 91, between March 2004 and February 2005, as compared with March 2005 and February 2006. In that same time period, accidents in Lilburn increased from 37 to 46, or 24 percent.
Rumors went around that small towns were lowering the number of seconds the light stayed amber to nail more drivers, though none of them have admitted to doing so. Still, in response to citizen complaints, Georgia enacted a state law on Dec. 31, 2008, mandating the yellow phase of the lights last one second longer at every camera-enforced intersection in the state. In January 2008, red light cameras in Lilburn issued almost 1,500 tickets at three intersections. After adding the single second to the yellow light phase, January 2009 saw the number of camera-issued tickets dive to about 300, according to City Manager Bill Johnsa. Snellville’s trio of cameras nailed almost 3,000 drivers in December of 2005. This February saw that number fall to under 500.
Officials of these cities insist the focus was on safety, not revenue generation. But still, now that they are not making money — while presumably still making motorists safe — cities are taking them down.

Other electronic traffic controls in the Southeast are facing tough times, too. In Louisiana, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department recently cut ties with Redflex Traffic Systems, citing a series of incidents. Redflex employed a speed camera for the parish, a radar system that takes a picture of — and mails a ticket to — speeders. Back in April, the parish had to give refunds to 2,488 ticketed drivers because the company had set the van up in a place where the speed limit changed from 70 mph to 60.
Following several other incidents, including having the “speeder van” parked illegally on private property, the final straw came when Redflex parked the van on the property of the Carroll Baptist Church in Walker, La. Church officials had the van towed. In a statement, the sheriff’s office said, “It was brought to the attention of sheriff’s officials that improper comments were made to the towing company employees. … Due to a recent series of events regarding Redflex and its representatives, the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office is discontinuing its participation in the parish’s photo enforcement program commonly referred to as ‘the speeder van.’”
The Web site, shows the red light camera locations in the Tar Heel State. So far, they’re all down east, having not made it west of Gaston County. Let’s hope our local leaders take note of these issues with electronic public safety enforcement and do not open that messy can of worms.

Article by Dave Russell,

Georgia Traffic Ticket Defense Lawyer

Future Not So Bright For Georgia Red Light Cameras

The traffic law is clear: Stop on red.

Technology used by many cities to enforce the standard is equally simple: Stop or the camera will catch you.

Last year, cities and counties using automatic cameras issued 260,000 citations to motorists who were captured on film running through red lights.

Altogether, communities collected more than $14 million in fines last year, according to records compiled by the state Department of Transportation.

Modern-day speed traps or tech-assisted justice? Six years after the first communities started installing cameras at intersections, the monitoring remains controversial.

Critics, including some ticketed drivers, say the cameras are unconstitutional and unfairly target commuters who make a daily crawl through traffic-clogged intersections.

A better method to reduce accidents is to extend the length of the yellow warning light, argues state Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), who has tried for years to get the cameras removed.

“They’ve put the burden of proof on the accused,” he said. “You have to prove you didn’t run it.”

Advocates, including several police leaders, produce data that show the cameras have either reduced the number of accidents or changed the type of accidents, typically producing more rear-enders that cause less serious injuries.

Over time, at the intersections where cameras were first installed, communities also have reported that drivers violate the light system less often once they realize they’re being watched.

In Snellville, for example, cameras were installed at three intersections in 2006. By the following year, crashes at its busiest juncture —- U.S. 78 at Ga. 84 —- had fallen from 80 to 36. At the intersection of Ga. 124 at Ronald Reagan Parkway, crashes dropped from 112 to 48, according to city data.

Nothing else changed, such as traffic counts, Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said. “They’ve worked,” he said. “They’ve done everything we wanted them to.”

What they haven’t done as of this year is produce enough revenue to make them profitable in some communities.

As of January, under a new state law, Georgia communities using the cameras were supposed to add an extra second of yellow light. The national standard requires a three- to six-second warning, depending on approaching speeds.

Several communities in Gwinnett County, including Snellville, have suspended use of the cameras since January, saying the longer yellow has dramatically reduced the number of violations, and tickets, enough so that keeping the cameras running is cost-prohibitive.

In Lilburn, where three junctions have cameras, the city issued 1,468 citations in January 2008, said Bill Johnsa, city manager. This January, the number dropped to 313.

“They were installed for safety,” Johnsa said. “It would be ideal if we could just break even. At this point, we’re going to be in a deficit.”

Other communities with busy intersections say their cameras are still flashing enough to justify the ongoing maintenance costs.

In Marietta, where three intersections have cameras, local officials collected $1.5 million in 2008. After subtracting maintenance costs, the city still had nearly $1 million left over, according to city documents.

At its big-ticket intersection —- Windy Hill Road at Cobb Parkway —- cameras documented more than 19,000 violations. The number has dropped at that intersection over time, but it still ranks as one of the worst in metro Atlanta for red-light scofflaws, according to the state data.

This year, for the first time, communities using red light cameras were required to report data on their operations to state DOT officials or risk forfeiting the revenue collected from fines.

The legislation, sponsored by Loudermilk, was part of a broader attempt to curtail use of the cameras.

“The problem is, for many cities, it’s about the money,” he said.

Although cities have to pay ongoing maintenance costs, several intersections have returned proceeds for years. Any excess money returns to the community.

At a single intersection in Atlanta —- Freedom Parkway at Boulevard —- overhead cameras recorded more than 49,000 violations last year, its first year of operation.

Overall, Atlanta collected $2.4 million from eight intersections with cameras, according to the state data.

Harry Williamson, an Atlanta federal courthouse employee whose wife has received a ticket, is skeptical the technology changes behavior. Drivers stop for the cameras, he has observed, “after that, it’s business as usual. Everyone is like a bat out of hell.”

Atlanta city officials did not respond to several requests for an explanation about the volume of offenders at its big-ticket intersection. But in other communities with large numbers of violations, officials say volume usually decreases over time, which is one of the reasons they favor cameras.

The photo —- typically mailed home along with the citation —- makes it hard for someone to protest, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said.

“It’s something tangible they can look at,” he said. “With this, you can look at it and you can clearly see it’s your car, it’s your tag, and it’s you in the middle of the intersection. And the light is red.”

Clayton’s two intersections with cameras were among the 10 most active in metro Atlanta last year, according to the state data, released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request.

At the county’s busiest crossroads —- Tara Boulevard at Upper Riverdale Road —- cameras captured nearly 15,000 violations.

The final call on whether a violation is worth a citation is made by a person —- usually a police officer —- who views the images captured on video or still cameras.

In Roswell, most of the violations aren’t close calls, said police Lt. James McGee, who oversees the program. It isn’t a case of the driver who gets stuck in traffic at the center of the intersection when the light changes.

“Most of the red light violations we’re catching, it’s blatant,” McGee said.

Metro Atlanta intersections with the most red light violations in 2008: 
1. Atlanta, Freedom Parkway @ Boulevard, 49,322 violations 
2. Marietta, Cobb Parkway @ Windy Hill Road, 19,101 violations 
3. Roswell, Alpharetta Highway @ Holcomb Bridge Road, 18,596 violations 
4. Clayton County, Tara Blvd. @ Upper Riverdale Road, 14,737 violations 
5. Atlanta, Peachtree Road @ Lenox Road, 13,964 violations 
6. Clayton County, Mt. Zion Blvd. @ Mt. Zion Road, 13,910 violations 
7. Atlanta, Courtland Street @ Baker Street, 12,025 violations 
8. Lilburn, U.S. 29 @ Ga. 378/Beaver Ruin Road/Arcado Road, 11,927 violations 
9. Atlanta, North Ave. @ Spring Street, 9,940 violations 
10. Snellville, Ga. 10/U.S. 78 @ Ga. 124, 8,819 violations 

Numbered map of metro Atlanta locates the above sites.

Georgia communities that collected the most in fines last year: 
1. Atlanta, $2.4 million from eight intersections 
2. Clayton County, $1.6 million from two intersections 
3. Marietta, $1.5 million from three intersections 
4. Roswell, $1.1 million from two intersections 
5. Savannah, $986,090 from three intersections 
6. Lilburn, $935,000 from three intersections 
7. Alpharetta, $756,875 from seven intersections 
8. Duluth, $577,673 from three intersections 
9. Snellville, $562,570 from three intersections 
10. Athens/Clarke County, $462,905 from two intersections 

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation
Article by Mary McDonald - Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Speeding Ticket Laws

Dalton Georgia Red Light Cameras Coming Down

Almost two years after it started, Dalton’s red light camera program came to an end on Monday.

The City Council voted 4-0 to cancel a contract with Norcross-based LaserCraft, which operates cameras at the intersections of Waugh Street and Thornton Avenue and Highway 41 and Shugart Road. Mayor David Pennington votes only in the event of a tie.

“We’ve gotten data from the police department but nothing that overwhelmingly proves that it truly helps public safety. Most of the citations were from rolling right-hand turns,” said council member Denise Wood.

The council approved the red light cameras in 2006, and the first cameras went up at Thornton and Waugh in June 2007.

“I was on the council when we voted for it, and what we voted for was a trial period. We’ve had that. The most damaging thing from my point of view is that the (Georgia Department of Transportation) will not service those intersections,” said council member Dick Lowrey.

Public works director Benny Dunn said GDOT requires local governments to assume liability for traffic signals on any state route they place traffic cameras on as well as any “connected” lights. In the case of the Highway 41-Shugart Road intersection, that also includes the I-75 interchange and Tibbs Road.

Dunn said it would cost about $12,000 to replace one of the controller boxes at those intersections. If one needed to be replaced while the cameras were there, the city would have been on the hook. After the cameras come down, GDOT would be responsible for replacing it.

Police Chief Jason Parker said the red light program has been a success.

“We’ve seen what I would describe as remarkable results in terms of accident reductions, especially at Shugart and 41,” he said.

Data provided by Parker shows accidents at that intersection rose from 54 in 2006 to 64 in 2007 but dropped to 44 in 2008. But at Waugh and Thornton, accidents declined before the cameras went in and stayed fairly flat since. There were 19 crashes in 2005, 10 in 2006, 11 in 2007 and 10 in 2008.

Parker said red light violations and traffic accidents have dropped across the city since the cameras went up, which he says is a “residual effect” of the program.

But Pennington noted that accidents have dropped nationwide, not just in Dalton.

“You’ve probably seen that we had the lowest number of highway deaths since 1961. Because of the economy, people are driving less. So it’s hard to compare accidents,” he said.

State law required cities to add an extra second to the amber lights at intersections with traffic cameras, and city officials said there was some evidence that move helped reduce traffic violations at those intersections. They said they will ask GDOT to let them keep that extra second at Shugart and 41, which is a state route.

Some Dalton residents said before the meeting that they didn’t have any strong feelings about the cameras.

“They say they reduce accidents. I don’t know. If they do I guess it’s a good thing,” said Joe Fernandez.

City officials said they stopped issuing citations from the cameras in the first week of March. They said they did not know how long it will take LaserCraft to remove the cameras.

The city paid $4,695 for each “approach” per month, with two approaches (the north and south) covered at the Thornton-Waugh intersection and all three covered at Shugart-Highway 41. The city did not pay once the issuing of citations stopped.

Dalton Daily Citizen

By Charles Oliver

Dalton Georgia Speeding Ticket?

Georgia Red Light Cameras In The Red?

The city of Dalton is currently losing money on red light cameras at the intersections of Waugh Street and Thornton Avenue and Shugart Road and Highway 41. City Council members say they will decide soon whether to keep those cameras.

“We are on a month-to-month lease now, and we should decide at the next council meeting or two whether to sign a new contract,” said Mayor David Pennington.

The cameras brought in $344,126 in revenue from fines in 2008 and ran up costs of $283,574, according to the city finance office. Those costs include rental and court costs, but they do not include the man hours that police officers spend reviewing video from the cameras before deciding to issue tickets.

But in January of this year, the cameras brought $24,500 in revenue and rang up $23,834 in expenses. In February, the city took in $11,760 in fines from tickets issued for violations caught by the cameras and had expenses of $23,475.

The city pays $4,695 for each “approach” per month, with two approaches (the north and south) covered at the Thornton-Waugh intersection and all three covered at Shugart-Highway 41.

Why has revenue fallen?

Well, citations are down. In January 2009, for instance, the city issued 203 tickets based on video from the cameras, down from 397 in January 2008. In February 2009, the city issued 125 tickets, down from 586 the previous year.

Cities across the state have seen citations and revenue drop from red light cameras since the first of the year. That’s because of a state law that took effect requiring them to add one second to the amber lights at any intersections with red light cameras.

But Dalton public works director Benny Dunn says that law shouldn’t have any effect in Dalton, since the city had already added one second to those intersections when it installed the cameras.

“We were already in compliance with the law,” he said.

So why are tickets down? No one has a firm answer.

“Maybe people just decided they’d rather stop than pay a fine,” said City Council member George Sadosuk.

Norcross, Suwanee, Snellville and other Georgia cities have stopped their red light camera programs since Jan. 1, citing big losses. Rome is reportedly losing $10,000 a month on its traffic camera program, and city officials are considering ending that program.

Some Dalton residents said Monday they wouldn’t mind seeing the cameras go.

“They say they cut down on accidents. I don’t know,” said Al Fernandez. “I haven’t been caught by them, but I know people who have.”

Dalton Daily Citizen

Article by Charles Dalton

Traffic or speeding ticket in Dalton Georgia?