Sunday, May 30, 2010

Red Light and Speeding Cameras: My Newest Annoyance

Up until today, I’ve mostly been on the fence about whether or not I approve of traffic law enforcement cameras. Throughout Arizona, you’ll find many such image and video capturing devices set up on road, highways, and at some street intersections. There are some pros and cons to the whole idea of using this technology to aid law enforcement in keeping the streets safer for everyone and so far, neither has really outweighed the other. That is -before I got one myself when I wasn’t at fault. Before I go into the specifics of my scenario, here’s the good and bad of the debate…
  • PROS
    1. Reduces number of traffic related injuries/deaths, due to a lower incidence of traffic safety violations.
    2. Increases revenue for government agencies by tracking more violations.
    3. Reduces the need to have enforcement officers patrolling/monitoring streets for violators.
    4. If you aren't breaking the law, then you have no reason to be worried about the system.
  • CONS
    1. People don’t like being watched/held accountable when they break the law (even minor infractions).
    2. Some drivers ‘freak out’ when approaching a camera, thus creating more unsafe conditions than would otherwise have existed.
    3. Some drivers avoid the cameras and take a different route, or only obey the laws when a camera is present. In other words: they just aren’t effective.
    4. There is a cost to undertake such an initiative and to build the system, costing taxpayers more up front.
    5. Enforcement of issued citations is low, with violators frequently skirting the responsibility of paying the fine, rendering the system useless.
There may be more, but that’s all I can come up with at the moment.
TicketThanks to my citation, pro #4 is quickly taken back; I wasn’t breaking the law, yet I was ‘flashed’ by the cameras, and a few weeks later got my complaint in the mail. Apparently, I ran the red, and entered the the intersection when I shouldn't have. But that's ridiculous, and it's easy to see, just by looking at the video. I’ll start by highlighting the moment of the infraction. Along with the citation, access is provided to view the images taken of the incident online, as well as a video of the whole process. This image shows on the left the moment before the light turned red and the moment after on the right (my car is the only red one, on the right-hand portion of the frame).

Ticket3I want to highlight the striping here, for those that may not understand the conventions here in Tucson. In the image above(colored for clarity), the orange line is the ‘stop line’, the green lines are the outer limits of the crosswalk, the pink area is the sensor strip for the camera system, and the red line is a line that was added after the system was set up. I don’t know if this red line has a name, or if it really even serves a purpose (my honest guess is that it highlights where the curb ends), but it’s there.

Reviewing these images, it should be painfully obvious that I was beyond the crosswalk and the stop line and had already entered the intersection (see next section) before the light had fully changed to red. It’s not extremely clear if I was beyond the red line or not, but according to the law, that shouldn’t matter.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) “Driver License Manual” (.pdf), this is how intersections may be indentified:
The intersection at which the photos were taken fall into the category at the bottom-right and as such, drivers must stop at the stop line when presented with a ‘stop’ traffic signal. That signal in the example is a stop sign, but this applies to red lights as well. The documentation also states that certain rules may apply and supersede the general conventions, and this will be indicated at the applicable location. I may have to go to the intersection itself and take a picture showing there are no posted signs indicating this line has any importance, but take my word for it, there are none that alert drivers to a change in this rule. There are signs telling drivers that traffic laws are photo enforced, however.
Although it’s not actually applicable to this case, I want to add that a right-on-red is legal in Arizona. When stopped at a red light, if the way is clear (no other traffic or pedestrians), then one may proceed with a right turn at that stop. This doesn’t matter here, since I was not at a stop (the signal was still yellow) when I began the maneuver. Had I been stopped, this still would have been a legal turn, since there was no other traffic to impede, as made evident by the photo provided above (and by the fact that I wasn’t involved in a collision as a result of that action).
Since I was already completely past the crosswalk, I was officially in the intersection. Based on all this, I can’t seem to understand how I am in violation. If someone wants to explain to me how I’m wrong, please do, otherwise I will not be responding to this complaint (as is the standard practice among many with whom I’ve spoken about this). In addition to this, I will take an official negative position on the whole concept of this camera business. Sorry, the ultimate saving grace that “if you’re legal, then you’re safe” has been thrown out the window.
Except for the hassle that would inevitably be involved, I almost want someone to serve me and bring me to court to plead my case, just so I can stick this back in somebody’s face. If you’re in Tucson, avoid making ‘illegal’ legal right on reds at camera intersections in the meantime to avoid this mockery.


  1. Yes, but how else is the city supposed to make money. Right or wrong, you now have to fund the city. Pay up and be a proud member of the City of Tucson - freedom isn't free!

    /chuckle :P

  2. I agree with you 100%, except for your plan of action. When you sign onto the website to view your photos, which i wholly assume you did since you posted them here, you need to enter the citation or reference number, and acknowledge receipt of the citation. The reason people can avoid these until they go away is that they have never been served the complaint. Unless you acknowledge that you have gotten this citation, it must be served by an officer of the court or public safety (process server).
    Seeing as how you have acknowledged this citation, you now MUST go to court to fight it, otherwise you will also receive a default judgment, suspended license, etc.
    You have your ducks in a row...go and plead your can help set precedent against these citations, rather than simply complain about it on a blog!!(and then you can post your victory!!)

  3. Chris,

    While I see the logic in saying that I have acknowledged the ticket by visiting the site, but nowhere on the citation itself, in the accompanying information, nor on the citation/image website ( is there a disclaimer that says such a thing is true. If you are correct then that's just one more thing the city has done wrong (illegally?).

    Whichever case may be true, I thank you for the support, and you can expect to see the result of my action here, good or bad.


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