Virtual cops: Supes okay photo red-light district

news-chief-millerChief John Miller extols the virtues of photo-red cameras to the Albemarle Supervisors.

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors unanimously approved installation of photo-red cameras in three of the county's heaviest traveled intersections at its August 5 meeting.

"It's just like having an officer sitting there," Albemarle police Chief John Miller told the Supes.

Police tracked red-light runners at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road, one of the proposed photo-red spots, on June 29. In a 12-hour period, 121 drivers ran red lights, said Miller. U.S. 29 and Hydraulic, and Richmond and Stony Point roads are the other intersections destined for cameras.

Violators will receive three photos of their traffic transgressions, said Miller, and the cameras start clicking .5 seconds after the light turns red. A videotape of the violation will be available online as well.

A police officer will review all alleged violations to reduce erroneous ticketing, Miller assured the supervisors. Chair David Slutzky noted that when photo red first started, he received notice of a violation in a town he'd never visited–- six hours away.

Being captured on film means a $50 fine, and can be appealed with a police officer without going to court. "No court, no points," said Miller.

And while the police chief said the cameras will reduce accidents and improve safety, critics argue the devices increase the number of rear-end collisions 27 percent, according to a study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

news-straussEdward Strauss claims money trumps safety as the main motivator for installing photo-red cameras.

"I keep hearing the word 'safety,'" said Edward Strauss. "Good Lord, people. If you want to make [29] safer, build the western bypass. This is a revenue enhancer."

Steve Yelton argued that better intersection engineering and a ban on cellphone use while driving would reduce red light running.

People stuck in the intersection when the light turns red will not get a ticket, said Miller. And it will still be possible to go right on red as long as the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Despite their enthusiasm for the ticketing technology, the board expressed concern about cost. "We do expect this to pay for itself," said Jouett District Supervisor Dennis Rooker.

The cameras cost $4,500 a month at each intersection, requiring three tickets a day to break even. "If we don't meet that, it's no cost to us, and we shut it down," said Miller.

But he reminded the board of the 121 redlight-runners in a 12-hour period, and suggested that having to pull the plug on the cameras isn't necessarily a bad thing if it means fewer stoplight scofflaws.


Let the corruption begin. Shortened yellow lights, malfunctioning machines, kickbacks.

15 reasons to oppose photo radar

Sick of the Local Rambos: Your comparison to Italy is interesting but unfounded. As wonderful as that country is, it is permeated by a corruption on all levels of politics and most levels of business that we as Americans can't fathom. Though the opportunity for abuse exists here, to bring up the Italian example is just plain alarmism.

While we do need better intersection engineering, a lot of the responsibility rests on us to be considerate drivers. Be alert, go when the light turns green, don't leave 2 SUV-lengths between your precious car and the one in front of you, and stop when it's not your turn any more.
It sounds to me like we all just want to avoid being held respnsible for selfishly endangering others while breaking the law. (And if you've lent your car to someone, you're risking them crashing it--what's so much worse about risking them getting you a ticket?)

Ed, intelligent people realize it's about revenue.

I'd recommend a thorough review of related information on the website for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safetey. Many of the studies done thus far are not conclusive, but here are some highlights:

--use of photo red cameras may ultimately affect overall driver behavior. So, in communities where they have been installed at some locations, there is some evidence it reduces red light violations throughout the entire community, even where there are no cameras. If that's the potential impact, its hard to understand why revenue is the ultimate motivation---it could have the opposite impact.

--There is evidence the cameras may increase the frequency of rear end crashes as people hurry up to get through the light, but there is a reduction in front to side impacts because you don't have people trailing through a solid red light and being hit by someone advancing on the other green. Because front to side crashes cause more bodily injury, the net effect is an overall reduction in the severity of injuries caused by crashes.

--A variety of states have upheld the use of cameras

Although there may be tactical issues that need to be addressed with timing of the lights and related issues, the idea is worth considering and using on at least a trial basis. Unless you're on your way to the save someone's life, I don't want you risking the lives of me and my children as you run the red light.

So will the cameras be just used against traffic violators or can they use it for non-traffic offenses or violations?

For Rambo
I find it amusing that you find a need to insult ED when he's
making a very good point. One that you seem totally ignorant
to fathom. If I look for an intelligent in the future I won't be one of yours.

thinking free, I was agreeing with Ed Strauss! Intelligent people know it's all about revenue. The rest of the population think it's about public safety.

Can be appealed with a police officer without going to court?

Yeah, I bet that works out real well. (rolls eyes)

I knew it was a done deal before the meeting.

@Bob, what exactly does building the western bypass have to do with running red lights?

What happens when someone borrows your car?

Build the bypass.

You should really watch out for the right turn on red AFTER COMPLETE STOP. other then the hydralic intersection is a mile long across 29 and a half mile the other way. The left turn from 29 to the mall is like two seconds of green what tha. They should just do away with that intersection completly. just install a dead end sign and fix everything!

"since you are responsible for your car, you pay then ask for the borrower to pay you back."

Ah...there's the rub. If the car is parked and gets a ticket, the driver is irrelevant. Plus, it's not a moving violation, and there are no points.

If somebody borrows my car and gets a speeding ticket or other moving violation it's on them, 100%, immediately. If somebody borrows my car and uses it as a getaway car in a bank robbery, it's on them - and the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I was behind the wheel to convict me. A photo of the license plate as the sole evidence in such a case would be laughed out of court.

In this case, if somebody borrows my car and runs a red light, it's all on me - the burden of proof is shifted from the state to the accused. Even if the driver pays me, I still have the running a red light conviction on my driving record, which can increase my insurance.

The "no court/a cop decides" idea doesn't pass the smell test. Cops are not qualified to adjudicate points of law. Can you appeal if the cop blows the case?

In California, the red light cameras have to capture the driver's face - if not, the ticket can be tossed by claiming that you weren't driving. That seems far, far more responsible. Yes, I'm sure it costs more to get that money shot, but I'm not to hip on the cops cutting fiscal corners to generate revenue.

Of course, in California the police have also been known to issue fake but official-looking tickets when the face photo is unclear, in hopes that the person receiving it either pays or turns in the driver. They can do that because there are just enough police staters on the Supreme Court to allow cops to lie and go to great lengths to affect confessions.

Interesting info from the IIHS site:

Laws authorizing photo enforcement provide that photographic evidence of a violation is sufficient to issue a citation to a registered owner. The citation is merely a summons. Photo-enforcement laws always make it clear that the photographic evidence creates only a rebuttable presumption. The registered owner may present a defense in person or, in Virginia, by mailing in an affidavit stating under oath that he or she was not the driver at the time of the offense (Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-833.01(D)). In other states, an owner only has to identify the driver to rebut the presumption. It is difficult to imagine a presumption that is easier to rebut.

So apparently in Virginia if you swear that you weren't the driver, the case is dropped?

They claim to be doing us a favor. After all, they are allowed
by law to have a maximum of 9 intersections covered by Photo
Radar. Considering the County's new policy of Integrity this is
nonsense. Running red lights is fine as long as you pay them $50??
Having them scream safety while ignoring basic road design and planning issues. This type of govt. will continue until people get involved and start voting in local elections. It is a rigged deal.
The hearings are a show...

A reporter could write a good story if they got out and measured the yellow light times right now and at various points after the photo reds are installed.

Wangitus, it's not about safety. Do you recall what the police chief said? (And I use the term "police chief" very lightly in this case) He said if the program doesn't pay for itself, he would pull the plug. If the program isn't paying for itself, why pull the plug if it's about safety? Public safety costs money, it doesn't make money.

Mike, supposedly the broad side accidents go down, and the rear end accidents go up. With either, injuries are going to be serious. Therefore, this is why I see it as being about nothing more than revenue, not "public safety".

If "public safety" was really the thought, marked police cars patrolling the area would cut down on both broadside and rear end accidents. But most agencies have assigned so many cops to so many different "specialized units" that there's not enough cops left over to patrol any longer.

If you have any cop friends who will open up to you easily, they'll tell you that the "specialzed gravy train units" have left patrol so shorthanded that it's not even funny any longer. It's dayum critical out there and working some of them to death!!

I am with you

'The cameras cost $4,500 a month at each intersection, requiring three tickets a day to break even. ââ?¬Å?If we don’t meet that, it’s no cost to us, and we shut it down,” said Miller.'

Sounds like the way to screw the County here is for all of us to band together and stop running red lights. Then the company making this technology will lose money (at least the way the Chief is making it sound) and they'll stop using it?

Then we all go back to our normal driving patterns....

Who is with me?

These cameras are like Crack to a government... they will become addicted to the revenue and you will see them everywhere...

Then you will find out that they shorten the yellows by .3 of a second to generate more money.

This is just another revenue enhancer..

It would be cheaper for the insurance companies if they paid the county NOT to put them in...that way they could save money on fixing all the rear end collisions.

These cameras also increase road rage as timid people afrid of a ticket refuse to even enter an nintersection if it might turn yellow.

Talk to anyone from NOVA and you will see the truth..

It will stimulate the economy.

I bet the phone lines and internet servers at are extremely busy right now just from Charlottesville and Albemarle County inquiries and orders! :)

@Um... , since you are responsible for your car, you pay then ask for the borrower to pay you back.

Nothing was said about increasing the yellow light time. I frequently drive across 29 on Hydraulic and if you're the 4th or 5th car when the light turns green it's almost guaranteed to be red (for at least half a second) before you make it to the other side. It also doesn't help that people delay accelerating when the light changes and cars are moving. For every car length you leave between you and the person in front of you when the light turns green, you're screwing that many cars over behind you. This is especially problematic during high volume traffic times. I'm not saying they need to tailgate...just keep up with the car ahead so others can make the light and keep traffic moving.

This report is quite interesting too:

April 5, 2007

Minnesota Supreme Court Strikes Down Red Light Cameras

The Minnesota Supreme Court delivers a unanimous decision striking down the legality of red light cameras.

The Minnesota Supreme Court today delivered the highest-level court rebuke to photo enforcement to date with a unanimous decision against the Minneapolis red light camera program. The high court upheld last September's Court of Appeals decision that found the city's program had violated state law (read opinion).

The supreme court found that Minneapolis had disregarded a state law imposing uniformity of traffic laws across the state. The city's photo ticket program offered the accused fewer due process protections than available to motorists prosecuted for the same offense in the conventional way after having been pulled over by a policeman. The court argued that Minneapolis had, in effect, created a new type of crime: "owner liability for red-light violations where the owner neither required nor knowingly permitted the violation."

"We emphasized in Duffy that a driver must be able to travel throughout the state without the risk of violating an ordinance with which he is not familiar," the court wrote. "The same concerns apply to owners. But taking the state's argument to its logical conclusion, a city could extend liability to owners for any number of traffic offenses as to which the Act places liability only on drivers. Allowing each municipality to impose different liabilities would render the Act's uniformity requirement meaningless. Such a result demonstrates that [the Minneapolis ordinance] conflicts with state law."

The court also struck down the "rebutable presumption" doctrine that lies at the heart of every civil photo enforcement ordinance across the country.

"The problem with the presumption that the owner was the driver is that it eliminates the presumption of innocence and shifts the burden of proof from that required by the rules of criminal procedure," the court concluded. "Therefore the ordinance provides less procedural protection to a person charged with an ordinance violation than is provided to a person charged with a violation of the Act. Accordingly, the ordinance conflicts with the Act and is invalid."

June 25, 2009

The Ventura County, California Grand Jury on Monday slammed the city of Ventura for using short yellows to trap motorists at an intersection where a red light camera snaps $1.5 million worth of tickets each year. Of the city's eighteen automated ticketing machines, only the one located at the intersection of California Street and Thompson Boulevard consistently tops the charts.

In just three months at the location, the camera operated by Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems issued 825 tickets worth $435 each, or a total of 9.3 tickets per day. Another camera located at Mills Road and Main Street only issued 49 tickets over the same period. When taking traffic volumes into account, that means the California and Thompson camera issued citations at a rate one hundred times greater than Mills and Main (9.3 tickets per 10,000 passing vehicles compared to a rate of 0.09).

The grand jury found that California and Thompson just happened to have the shortest yellow time of any intersection in the city, although the three seconds given to drivers meets the absolute minimum allowed by state and federal law.

"California Street has three traffic signal-controlled intersections," the report stated. "The grand jury observed that the yellow light interval at the north and south approaches to California and Thompson had the shortest duration, one full second shorter than other yellow light intervals at intersections on the same street having the same posted speed limit."

The grand jury is a group of about two dozen individuals who serve for a year with both criminal trial duties and the ability to investigate county business. When they do so, they "may ask for support and advice from superior court, district attorney's office, county counsel or outside consultants." In this case, the jurors interviewed police officials from Ventura and Oxnard who handle inquiries regarding the photo ticketing program run by Redflex. The jurors were also escorted to red light camera locations.

The grand jury report accepted selective and partial sets of data that police claimed showed accident reductions. It also cited the 2001 insurance industry report on red light cameras in Oxnard that has been discredited by the Weekly Standard and the University of South Florida. Based on the Oxnard claims, the grand jury endorsed the continued use of cameras as long as yellow times are increased.

"The grand jury also recommends that Oxnard and Ventura investigate traffic engineering measures, in addition to the installation of 'red light cameras' to address the safety concerns of red light running."

Sunday, March 29, 2009 5:58:34 PM

Red light cameras have been shut down across Italy in massive fraud scandals involving 109 public officials and contractors as the largest ever government investigation into the illegal use of photo enforcement expands.

Motorist complaints about being trapped at camera-equipped intersections with short yellow signal durations sparked the inquiry.

Criminal charges of forgery and fraud are based on four basic complaints, many of which represent common practices in the United States. First, municipalities are accused of shortening yellow times to boost profit.

Second, investigators found that municipal police never reviewed the camera fines. Instead, the tickets went straight to private companies ...

The fourth and most damaging charge involves contracting irregularities.

The no-bid contracts offered to the companies that operate the systems with a per-ticket compensation of 35 percent of each fine issued, while common in the US, violate Italian contracting statutes.

Ooops”Šcorrection above. I meant Rio and 29”Šnot Hydraulic and 29.

I admit I get irritated with red light runners. I see the police on non-service calls do it.

BUT...when it comes to 29, I see the red light running the result of poor traffic planning and complete frustration at sitting an eternity to only find that the light turns yellow by the time the 3rd car hits the intersection, and its almost IMPOSSIBLE to make it across sometimes if you are the 3rd car before the light turns red.

Garbage. And so, we want to somehow punish people for bad planning.

Expect corruption like you have never seen before.

15 reasons to oppose photo radar

I don't think it will be that easy, Music Lover.

Civilians lie too.

So, if one twin accuses the other of being the driver, then the case is thrown out of court?

shoot I'm going to go run it while I still Can! I will be the last to run that light and get away with it!

So who pays the ticket when you enter an intersection on green but the vehicle 5 cars up decided to turn into starbucks and everybody down the line has to stop while they let someone else out???

This is a money making scheme and once the Government is addicted to the revenue there wil be no stopping it.

The only way they should allow this is if the money is redistributed directly back to the property taxpayers in the form of an annual rebate. at least then we will know it is about safety.

so if they ARE on their way to save someone's life, you DO want them risking your life and the lives of your children?

Would like to hear the Board's response to the claim that photo-red cameras "increase the number of rear-end collisions [by] 27 percent."