Friday, November 18, 2011

Red Light Cameras Ticket Stopped Cars

Prince George's County Police are defending a policy of using red light cameras to ticket motorists who come to a full stop at intersections just past the white 'stop line'.

Nolan Church said he received a ticket there for running a red light, in a location where the stop line was three car lengths away from the intersection.  "I absolutely stopped. I was stopped."  County police respond that the stop line is placed where it is to leave space for emergency vehicles.  AAA Spokesman John Townsend disagreed "What the municipality did was to expand the crosswalk. To entrap and ensnare people."

Under Maryland law it is a technical violation of the law to come to stop at a red light past the stop line, even if the car does not enter the intersection or the crosswalk.  However in some cases the stop line is place several car lengths prior to the crosswalk, giving many drivers the impression that they can proceed farther.  In some cases motorists may wish to see into the intersection in order to make turns (for safety), or the driver may simply miscalculate their stopping distance.

Most people are unaware that at some intersections the large majority of red light camera citations are for these 'technical violations' which have almost no chance of causing an accident, rather than 'straight through' red light running -- until they receive such a ticket themselves.  Stop line violations can greatly outnumber actual red-light running violations, so ticketing for such offenses increases the profitability of a red light camera system, both for the municipalities and the contractors who are paid based on the number of citations.

In Maryland red light camera tickets typically carry a $75 fine, with an implied threat to increase the penalty to $100 if the violation is challenged, discouraging many from contesting tickets.  Some violations issued by municipalities such as New Carrolton, which have a policy of using cameras to issue stop line tickets, have been successfully challenged in court.

1/12/2012: Observe how this is part of a national trend, with red light cameras used to ticket motorists engaged in perfectly safe behavior: