Web Advance: Are red-light cameras the answer?

Recently, the Virginia Generally Assembly passed legislation allowing the use of cameras to nab red-light runners, a technology for which both County and City officials have shown support. In the March 1 edition of the Hook, we examine the debate over the use of red-light cameras, and specifically the argument that intersections might be safer simply by increasing yellow-light times.

As officials point out, the intersection of 29 and Rio is one of the places where cameras might be installed. However, in a web-exclusive accompanying our cover story, this Hook video shows that the light at the intersection of 29 and Rio routinely turns yellow before the second car in line at the stoplight crosses the intersection. Around 9:10am on February 12, when a reporter visited, a car ran a red light on each of the five light changes we monitored. In one case, as the video shows, a school bus was in the intersection when the light turned red.

"It's a rather short cycle at that intersection," says VDOT spokesperson Lou Hatter, explaining that VDOT traffic engineers use a standardized formula to calculate yellow-light times (between three and six seconds), and that all lights in town operate on a computerized system. "Short green cycles at intersections like Rio are the result of trying to keep traffic moving on 29, especially after they synchronized the lights," says Hatter, adding that even the smallest time adjustment on the lights along 29 could snarl traffic. "Remember, it's a major highway."

Although Hatter says he's not aware of any data that would suggest longer yellow-light times make intersections safer, he seemed open to the idea and expressed concern that lights were turning red on drivers crossing 29 at Rio.

Read more about the red-light camera debate in the March 1 edition of the Hook.



There intersections popping up every day. Check this database for locations and fines. www.photoenforced.com

Love the bus. Go Speed Racer, Go.

Here's what baffles me about that intersection. Every few years a reporter will sit there and watch the light (the Progress did it last) and report that somebody runs the red light every time. Running a red light is, what a $100 fine? So why don't a few police cars sit out there for a few hours, tag-teaming offenders, and rack up the big bucks? If one person is running a red light for each light cycle, and the average light cycle is one minute (it's a few minutes for 29 bidirectionally, but there are a few brief cycles between each one of those) that's, what, $6,000 for an hour's work? I have never seen a single person nabbed for running a red at that intersection or, in fact, any other intersection in town.

Red light cameras do not help. In fact, VDOT's own study revealed that injuries actually increase when red light cameras are used. What's needed is a combination of better engineering and enforcement of our existing laws.

I'd be willing to bet ticketing via cameras brings in far more money than paying the officers to sit there. There are far more important issues for them to worry about.

I once stopped for a red light at the JPA/Emmet intersection and got smacked from behind. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I've never seen a cop enforcing red lights, or any other traffic issue for that matter, but I think part of the issue is that many intersections don't have places where cops could monitor traffic from the side of the road and pull out quickly to nab a light-runner if need be.

The red light issue isn't the only problem with the Rio Road intersection, though. Even though u-turns from the 29 northbound left lane are now illegal, everybody still does it. Not only are the u-turners at risk for colliding with someone making a right from W. Rio onto 29, but the light is so short that only maybe 2 u-turners can get through the intersection before the light turns red. The people behind the u-turners get so frustrated that they run the light. And yes, it's entirely possible to start making the left turn onto W. Rio while the light is still green, only to have it be red by the time you get onto Rio.

Haved lived in C'ville for 1 yr, moved here from Va. Bch where red light cameras were instituted 2+ yrs ago, removed but are now returning to that city. It blows me away to see drivers here casually cruise through red lights and I wonder if they're not paying attention, have difficulty judging their speed vs light change or just don't care! Regardless of the reason, red light cameras are there to make those reckless drivers accountable for the dangers they pose to others on the road - after all, driving is a privilege to be enjoyed by all and safety should be everyone's consideration!

Longer yellow lights are a stupid thing to even consider - people will just accelerate through them. Longer green lights are far safer - people tend to accelerate through yellow lights (actually, amber), but drive safely through green. There are MANY intersections around here with left turn lights that don't even stay long green to allow 1/3 of the vehicles in the left turn lanes to actually make it through the intersection. It seems that if the demand exists to fill up the turn lane, then the numbers exist to allow people to actually turn left in one light cycle.

Sometimes I really think it's hard to imagine that VDOT is actually managed by intelligent adults.They always spout data, but the data never adds up.

Why not just build the damn northern bypass?

There is a way to legally beat these cameras:

A majority of red light & speed cameras utilize strong flash to photograph the license plate on your car. Once sprayed on your license plate, PhotoBlocker's special formula produces a high-powered gloss that reflects the flash back towards the camera. This overexposes the image of your license plate, rendering the picture unreadable.


damn all these beautiful gir. Masood Garfield.

Regarding comment #9:

All of those camera-beating products have been proven not to work and the poster is pretty obviously 'marketing' the product. *cough*snake oil*cough* I wouldn't trust the website not to be keylogged, trojan-ed, or virus'ed, either, but I have to say I didn't even try it...

Are you kidding me? That light should be made longer. I run it every single day. Actually, I run it at least once a day and I will continue to run it even if I get $100 tickets.

you had me suicidal, suicida. Ulf Raharjo.