Red light cameras / by kevin murray

Communities are always trying to come up with creative ways to increase revenues and certainly on the surface one of the better ways is a system in which a machine takes pictures of vehicles that have run a red light.  This seems like both a valid safety device and a very profitable way to increase revenue because of the cost-effectiveness of the cameras, their accuracy, and the fact that you don't need to draw upon the resources of your police department.  Yet, this program has fundamental structural flaws which have resulted in pushback from drivers at large.


One of the most glaring annoyances of the automated red light camera scheme is that the photos produced simply shows images of your vehicle and its license plate but no images of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation.  In Georgia, the ticket is sent to the owner of record of the vehicle who is presumed to have been driving the vehicle, and although you have the right to dispute that you are not the driver, you must then as part of your defense identify the actual driver of the vehicle.  But what if the actual driver was your spouse?  Doesn't your legal spousal rights/privileges supersede an automated red light enforcement program?  I'm not sure of that answer but I find the thought to be quite intriguing.


The next problem with red light cameras is the fact that you are not actually ticketed by a human law enforcement officer in real time.  While city and state legislatures presume that their tickets have legal validity that may or may not be upheld by courts over the long term.  The main legal issues would be your right protecting you from self-incrimination, your right to due process, and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.  All of these may be valid against a traffic ticket issued without a law officer present.  The state workaround is shown, however, by the wording of the infraction itself.  For instance, in Georgia, the ticket states "the imposition of a civil penalty is not a conviction for any purpose, including: insurance rates.  Payment of a civil penalty is not reported to the department of public safety."  This pretty much gives up the game as distinctly indicating that the automated red light enforcement is all about increasing revenue and that the state knows that they are on a somewhat legally shaky ground.  To prove the point beyond any reasonable doubt, running a red light and being ticketed by an actual police officer would result in a 3-point penalty assessment against your driving record.


Additionally, there is the issue of the ticket being received by the owner of the vehicle.  When a driver is ticketed by a police officer, their signature on the ticket is proof positive that they received notice of the ticket and that they are the infringing party.  An automated ticket is mailed and because people move, travel, mail is lost, thrown away, and such, there isn't any guarantee that it was received.  Therefore, in Georgia it is mandated by law that the recipient of the automated ticket must be notified by certified mail or the traffic fine is uncollectible and invalid.


Finally, red light cameras were put into place ostensibly to improve public safety, and the fines were merely a means to pay for the equipment and to penalize drivers that infringed upon that public safety.  However, studies have consistently proven that by extending the length of a yellow light by one second and/or delaying the onset of a green light will do more to improve traffic safety than an automated camera.



By the way, a good friend of mine, got not one but two red light automated tickets, incredibly, at the exact same light although on different dates, $70 each, was never served by certified mail, and therefore never paid them, not that she had the money, and she is doing just fine. 


It pays to do a little research.