Red light cameras mostly catch illegal right turnersJune 6th, 2008 by sitedude
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 getting tickets.
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 infractions.
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 the past.
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.