The Seattle Times printed an article this week reporting that traffic deaths are up in cities where they have turned off red-light cameras.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined cities that have ended their red-light camera programs over the past 5 years, compared with cities that have continued their programs. Research showed that crashes involving running red-lights went up 30% in areas that removed their red-light cameras.

Fatal crashes involving running red-lights were compared between cities with camera programs and cities without them. Findings showed a rate of fatal crashes that was 21% lower in cities with camera programs. The results of these studies suggest getting rid of the cameras could have deadly consequences.

The research is aimed at demonstrating to the public that the red-light cameras are intended to promote safety and not just collect fines. There is certainly controversy around this, especially when red-light cameras are placed in intersections where there is no data to illustrate the need for them. In those cases, AAA has been among the opponents of red-light cameras.

Camera tickets have been on the rise with more and more traffic cameras installed around the greater Seattle area last year. This includes Red Light Traffic Cameras and School Zone Safety Cameras. Our prior blog post describes some of the critiques of red-light cameras. For example, camera fines are set and don’t account for how far over the speed limit the driver is driving. Sophisticated cameras will catch drivers going even one mile per hour over the speed limit passing a school when yellow lights are flashing. The fine will be the same for the driver going 1 mph over the limit as they are for the driver going 15 mph over the limit.

Our prior post touched on how the camera ticketing process works, with equipment and methods capturing corresponding images of the vehicle in violation and the vehicle license plate. The citation is then sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. Washington law prohibits taking images of the faces of drivers or occupants, so photos and videos show the rear of the vehicle only. Pictures and video are available to vehicle owners, police, and court personnel (online).

The registered owner of the vehicle in violation has 18 days from when it is issued to respond to the citation. Options for response including requesting a hearing, signing a declaration that the owner was not driving the vehicle, or paying the fine.

Non-camera violations operate differently. Since the citation is written directly to the driver, signing a declaration is not an option. Speed scales exist for non-camera violations, with fines being variable based on how far over the speed limit the driver is going.

If you receive a traffic citation, camera or non-camera, consider contacting an experienced traffic attorney. Many people quickly choose to pay their tickets without understanding the numerous reasons to fight them.  Some citations will impact your insurance rates while others will not. The best way to know how to proceed is to speak with a knowledgeable traffic attorney. These can be significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.