Caught behind a bus at camera-enforced intersection

The in basket: Mary Watson writes, “In September, I was headed north on Wheaton Way and was attempting to turn left onto Sylvan Way. There were two buses ahead of me. I could not see the turn light so I took my cue to go from the bus ahead of me.

“I could not see the light until the bus was halfway into its turn and I was well past the white line of the crosswalk. I saw that the light was red and rather than reverse and go backwards, I quickly followed the bus through the light and drove home.

“A few weeks later, I got a ticket in the mail for $124 dollars for running a red light and was caught by the red light camera posted there. Because I did indeed go through a red light but not intentionally, I decided to admit it and go to a mitigation hearing.

“(At) the hearing, Commissioner Shane Seaman, after hearing my explanation, fined me $85 dollars. He even said ‘Oh, yeah, I have been behind those buses.’ I told him clearly that I could not see the light until it was too late and I was glad for the light delay so that I was not in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic.

“I don’t know what else I could have done. Was I supposed to stop and reverse once I saw it was a red light?
I have heard from a friend who told me that she knows of several people who have had this happen to them. The commissioner did not offer any suggestions and I was disappointed that he still fined me $85 dollars. Others who had committed similar offenses were fined $70 and $75 dollars.

“I am curious as to two things…why did I get fined more? And what else was I supposed to do? I honestly did not RUN the red light with intent. I had to take my cue from the bus until I could see the light and by the time I saw it – it was too late. So in the interest of safety I just proceeded through the intersection as quickly as I could.”

The out basket: This dilemma is not unique to red light camera intersections. Any time a driver is following a large vehicle that obscures the view beyond it, he or she can find that a traffic signal has turned red while the large vehicle was transiting the intersection.

I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police what he would advise and his two-sentence response is essentially what I would recommend: “The best advice is to follow at a distance that allows you to see the light. Just assuming it’s green because a truck or bus is going through could result in a collision.”

It means leaving a larger gap than normal between you and the vehicle ahead.

A driver can get away with following at a normal distance at most signals, as the one-second delay on signal changes that Mary mentions will keep cross traffic from starting up quickly enough to risk a collision. And an officer would rarely be there to see it.

But enforcement at red light camera intersections is constant. If you know you’re coming to one and are behind a large vehicle, allow the extra distance.

When I watched several of these red light camera mitigation hearings a few years ago, the presiding official would reliably reduce the $124 fine for those appearing, but never nullified it completely. The reductions varied, and the official didn’t explain why, nor could I.

 

2 thoughts on “Caught behind a bus at camera-enforced intersection

  1. When following large vehicles, i.e. buses, trucks; the safest rule is if you cannot see their side mirrors, you are too close. This also allows you to see the traffic signal as well.

  2. So, I know it is an infraction to enter an intersection on a red light, did not know it was an infraction to not clear the intersection before a red light. Correct?

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