Questions being raised about new Richmond red light cameras

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Several attorneys in the Richmond-area are raising concerns about new red light cameras in use at the intersection of Elkhardt and Hull Streets in South Richmond.

Police installed the new red light cameras in January, but they were not activated until Monday.

Traffic Attorney Lindsay Hartz became concerned about red light cameras when Petersburg started using them last year.

“You have the right under the constitution to confront your accuser, and you are innocent until proven guilty, and I think this kind of turns that upside down,” Hartz said.

Hartz helps drivers fight tickets issued by red light cameras, but said because those tickets do not add points to your license and cost just $50 each, drivers do not often dispute them.

“Do you want to spend money on an attorney to fight it?” Hartz asked.

Still, Hartz said her clients have viable challenges to the tickets. Many clients tell her they were not the person driving when the camera took a picture.

“It seems to be there are a lot of people that lend their cars out, and there are various members of the family that drive them during different times of the day,” said Hartz.

Hartz is also concerned by the results of conducted back in 2007 by Virginia Department of Transportation’s research arm. The study looked at the impact of red light cameras on crashes in Virginia.

In the study, researchers did find the cameras reduce angle or side impact crashes caused by red light running by 42 percent. However, the study also found rear end crashes increased by 27 percent.

“So how many more accidents are you preventing, or are you just changing the way the accident happens?” Hartz asked.

The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Claire Gastanagam, also has privacy-related questions. She wonders who might gain access to the information once it’s collected.

“We don’t know where that data goes, who keeps it, and what it’s used for later on,” said Gastanagam.

Combine that data with data collected through other new forms of technology, and the ACLU of Virginia said the result could be even more frightening.

“Developing a whole algorithm to marry that with data from automatic license plate recognition, and data from drones, eventually and pretty soon, we have an algorithm…do you ever watch 'person of interest?'” asked Gastanagam.

The first 30 days for the new red light cameras will be used as a warning period.

Sensors trigger the system when the light turns red, according to police. If a vehicle runs the light, a series of photos is taken of the vehicle and its license plate. Tickets are mailed to the address listed to the vehicle.

The tickets can be contested in court, and photos of the incident are available online before the scheduled court date. The fine is $50.


  • jrcat7

    I would rather take my chances with a rear end collision than a T-bone.

    Although they don’t cite specific accident counts it would seem that a 42% reduction in higher speed red light accidents would outweigh the rear end collisions that, if one is wearing a seat belt, should be less risky for injury.

    Sorry to hear the lawyers can’t make a buck because the tickets are only $50.

    Also, anyone who “loans” their car out should hold the driver responsible, not expect the city, county or state to figure that out.

    Let the flames begin.

  • jrcat7

    Oh yes, and if you’ve ever been mowed down in a red light accident as I have, you might weigh the advantage of the lights more.

    Texting, not paying attention and nimrods in a hurry should not be excused.

    Plano Texas used to live by the unwritten law that it was illegal to be the first car at a red light. Lot’s of light runners. Tailed off quickly when red lit cams came to a busy intersection.

  • LoriAnn1213 (@LoriAnn1213)

    “You have the right under the constitution to confront your accuser, and you are innocent until proven guilty, and I think this kind of turns that upside down,” Hartz said.

    She stole that from Sheldon’s arguement on the Big Bang Theory LOL

  • M.L. Adams

    These things have been very problematic everywhere they’ve been used! Try googling ‘red light cameras’ and ‘Baltimore’ for an example of the problems involved. The concern is also raised, almost everywhere that they’ve been tried, that it is simply a ploy to help fill up empty city and county coffers. Because of the problems,in a number of locales where they have been used the programs have been ended.

  • jrcat7

    Right. if red light cams can certainly be abused…mostly by the vendors of the systems who rake off a lot of the revenue, but that doesn’t lessen their value to reducing accidents.

    Some systems take a picture of the driver along with a pic of the license plate. That helps to reduce the “it wasn’t ME driving” ploy.

  • jrcat7

    Definitely Short Pump. Broad and Pump/Pouncey Tract next!

    The cameras are in place all over the country. To pick out a few bad apples is like declaring anything that is abused anywhere should be avoided everywhere is absurd… tasers, guns, cops…

  • jrcat7

    You should check out this more recent study for Arlington VA that shows a substantial reduction in accidents.

    In the conclusion they say: “In sum, the current research reinforces earlier research on the effectiveness of red light camera enforcement in reducing violations at camera-enforced intersections, with particularly large decreases for the most dangerous violations,”

    • jcwconsult

      For jrcat7: Please note that the University of South Florida totally debunked the IIHS methodology in studying red light camera results. They showed with one major study that the data in the IIHS study actually showed crashes went UP, not down, using the SAME data but with proper analysis. The IIHS makes huge profits in some states where they can surcharge the premiums of drivers who get camera tickets. Asking the iIHS about the results of red light cameras is like asking the fox how the hens enjoyed his visit last night.

      James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  • James Walker

    1) Almost all red light cameras are about money, not safety.
    2) If an intersection has a high crash rate compared to traffic volume, it is almost always due to correctable engineering errors that cameras will NOT fix.
    3) Cameras make profits in two ways:
    a) Yellow intervals are deliberately set too short for the times needed for ACTUAL approach and turning speeds versus the simple physics laws of motion for time, speed, distance, and braking
    b) cameras ticket safe slow rolling right on red turns which federal research shows are involved in no more than 0.06% of all crashes with an injury or fatality and 0.4% of crashes at signalized intersections.
    4) After the $2 million dollar bribery scandal with Redflex in Chicago and knowing some of the same officials were involved in selling Richmond officials, there were ZERO reasons for Richmond to keep Redflex. Corporate corruption should NEVER be rewarded with more business.
    5) The ACLU objections are correct. The ACLU helped defeat red light camera bills in Michigan this year and helped block cameras in Connecticut for six years in a row. Cameras are absolutely unacceptable under our legal rules of due process, innocence until proven guilty and any common sense rules for privacy.
    6) Money circulates about 6.5 times per year according to the Fed. So $9,840/month x 12 x 6.5 will strip Richmond’s economy of over $750,000 a year in economic activity – transferring that economic benefit to the economies of Arizona and Australia. This is NOT wise for Richmond residents and businesses.
    7) AAA knows full well that virtually all camera tickets are about cash cow programs for money, not safety. AAA supports predatory ticket cameras because in some states they can issue high premium surcharges to safe driving policyholders who get tickets.
    8) The University of South Florida has exposed the fact that the IIHS analyses of red light cameras use very poor research techniques and sometimes their own data when analyzed properly shows that red light camera raise crash rates. The IIHS supports cameras for the lucrative insurance surcharges.
    9) If ticket cameras could only ticket unsafe drivers, the camera industry would go instantly bankrupt.
    10) Richmond and all VA residents should demand an end to all red light camera programs.
    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

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