The in basket: Mary Bulmer says her neighbor told her his nephew
recently got a ticket for making a legal right turn on a red light
at an intersection in Bremerton equipped with one of the red light
enforcement cameras. She’s heard a lot of people have been ticketed
for right turns on red and wonders how that might effect her,
particularly at Warren Avenue and Sheridan Road.
The out basket: That intersection is not one that has the red light
cameras, but Mary is right that right turners who don’t stop
properly before turning on a red light where there is a camera are
In fact, I was surprised to learn from Lt. Pete Fisher of the
Bremerton police traffic division that improper right turns are far
and away the most often cited infraction caught by the cameras.
The camera at 11th Street and Callow Avenue, for example, between
April 7 and May 7, caught violations for which tickets were issued
for 146 right turns against the light, 45 left turns and only five
through traffic red light infractions.
At Sylvan and Wheaton ways during the same period, there were 57
right turns, 23 left turns and nine through traffic
Right turns on red remain legal at the camera intersections, but
they have to be done correctly. Sgt. Wendy Davis of Pete’s division
says that technically requires stopping before crossing the broad
white stop bar. But the department is usually waiving a citation
for those who cross the stop bar but come to a complete stop before
entering the cross street. Exceptions are when the person doesn’t
stop until well into the intersection, she said. That often happens
when a driver sees the flash from the red light camera and realizes
he or she has been captured in a violation.
They waive an infraction in about 10 percent of the times the
cameras record a right turn done against the light, she said.
I was glad to hear about that measure of leniency, because I’ve
come to realize I almost never stop at a stop sign or red light
until I’m across the stop bar if cars ahead of me don’t stop me
farther back. Check out Colleen Smidt’s comment below for another
perspective on that.
On its face, Pete’s figures seemed to me to validate my belief that
the cameras are preying on the turners who run the light, rather
than those passing straight through and hence probably moving much
faster. They present the only real accident hazard, I have said in
What I forget, Pete told me, is pedestrians. A pedestrian can be
badly injured or killed by even a slow moving car, and pedestrians
can easily be hit by cars turning against a red light.
“When you see the video, you get a greater appreciation for the
hazards these violators are creating for other motorists and
pedestrians,” he said. “Both right and left-turn violators threaten
pedestrians. We have seen pedestrians shaking their fists or
otherwise reacting when there is a conflict.”
The cameras take a 12-second video of each violation as well as two
still shots. Those ticketed can go online and see the shots of
their violation, but other members of the public can’t.
I was also surprised to learn that no intersection can have more
than two directions of travel monitored by the cameras. The law
allowing them limits them to two per intersection, and each camera
takes pictures of only one direction of travel. He didn’t know why,
it’s just the way the law reads.
Also of interest is the fact that someone who ignores and nearly
hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk after coming to a full stop
behind the stop bar can’t be cited for that on the basis of the
photos. They can lead to citations only for red light violations,
regardless of whatever else they show, Pete said.