To curb this trend, more and more cities are installing red-light cameras. These fully automated devices collect all of the evidence authorities need to prosecute light-runners. If a camera catches you speeding through the intersection, you can expect a ticket (along with a photograph of the violation) to arrive in your mailbox a month or two later. In this article, we'll look at the basic elements in these systems to find out how they catch drivers red-handed. Want the best camera? For expert reviews of the best new cameras, check out our partner site Consumer Guide Products. --
In a typical system, cameras are positioned at the corners of an intersection, on poles a few yards high. The cameras point inward, so they can photograph cars driving through the intersection. Generally, a red-light system has cameras at all four corners of an intersection, to photograph cars going in different directions and get pictures from different angles. Some systems use film cameras, but most newer systems use digital cameras.
The Virginia Transportation Research Council released a report expanding upon earlier research into the safety effects of red light cameras in Virginia. Despite showing an increase in crashes, this study was instrumental in the return of red-light cameras to the state of Virginia. With a proven negative safety impact, the clear incentive to bring back the cameras was money.
In fact, before red light cameras arrived in the United States, that’s exactly what our regulations instructed them to do. If too many people enter on red at an intersection, engineers were supposed to lengthen its yellow time. But in the year that red light cameras first started collecting millions in revenue on our shores, those entrusted with developing our traffic safety regulations dropped the requirement to fix signal timing, instructing engineers to “use enforcement” instead.