Red Light Cameras


ESt3.jpgClose up of the camera box at 1st and E

Red Light Cameras are automated traffic safety devices that record video and/or take pictures when a vehicle has entered an intersection on a red light. The photos and video are then reviewed by a police officer and a citation is sent in the mail to the driver.

Don't confuse LEDDAR with red light cameras!

The penalty is $479 (last verified on May 2012) and a point on one's driving record. It was once $370 and a point. The monetary fine has been raised numerous times by the state since Red-Light Cameras became legal in California.

In order to be cited, one must cross the intersection's limit line while the signal is red. California law requires a clear picture of the driver and license plate in order to be fined. This photo must also match the picture on the driver's license of the vehicle's registered owner. Due to these facts, not every violation results in a citation. California's legislation requires a clear photo of the driver in order to issue a fine and add a point to your driving record as a moving violation. Red-light running is a very serious traffic violation because T-bone crashes are among the most dangerous types of crashes, occurring on the side of a vehicle with little protection for passengers during a crash.

  1. Cameras in Davis
  2. Success of Red Light Camera Programs
  3. Controversy
    1. Avoiding Fines
  4. Conclusion
  5. Further Reading
    1. Locally Relevant
        1. Brief Aside

Cameras in Davis

Around or before December 12th, 2005, the City of Davis began monitoring red light violations using video cameras at the following intersections:

ESt4.jpgNew warning sign at 1st and E Streets

There were over 50 warnings sent out in just the first two weeks of the grace period, all caught by only two (of the four that will be active) cameras. The city has entered a contract with [WWW]Nestor Traffic Systems in which the city will pay no more than a flat fee or what the cameras actually collect, whichever is less.

The cameras on Russell and First went live around Dec. 13, and 30 days after will be a grace period, in which violators will only receive a photo in the mail and will not be fined for the violation. The cameras on Chiles and Pole Line went live in mid-January 2006.

Today's traffic cameras can detect vehicle speeds, but their use by Davis Public Works remains a mystery. Loop detectors buried in the ground can also be used to measure the speed of red-light runners. The traffic cameras installed in Davis are 100% directional, which means if you are going any other direction then the camera does not track you.

Bicyclists can not be cited using Red Light Cameras because there is no legislation permitting cities to do so as well as the fact that cameras can not easily see the registration stickers on a bike.

Apparently, violation video footage will be available on the Internet for review. The URL for the footage is not yet known.

Success of Red Light Camera Programs

ESt2.jpgCamera set-up in front of the Natsoulas Gallery at 1st and E

Many municipalities have had different experiences with red light cameras. Cities such as Washington DC saw an increase in accidents. This was attributed to a short yellow light that creates a "dilemma zone," making it difficult for a vehicle to clear an intersection safely. If a motorist is traveling inside this dilemma zone while approaching the intersection, he must either proceed through the intersection on a red light or brake very suddenly, possibly entering the intersection on the red. Rear-end collisions may also rise as more vehicles screech to a halt to avoid getting a violation. Washington DC also issued false citations, causing doubt in citizens' minds whether the cameras were reliable.

The city of Fresno had to shelve its program because their cameras were not taking clear photos of the drivers. The city also wasn't making enough money on the program to justify the continuation of the program.

On the other hand, cities such as San Francisco have had a positive experience with red-light cameras. They report that accidents are down and that there is a positive "spillover effect" to neighboring intersections where the cameras were installed. They have also withstood many legal challenges in court.

Recently, many cities in California have shut down their red light cameras. The main reason was that the cameras were not cost effective. Cities were losing money to the state, the company that runs the cameras, people not paying the fines, and an increased number of drivers fighting their tickets in court. Cities getting rid of their red light cameras include Loma Linda CA, and Whittier CA. A study in San Diego showed that the city is currently losing money on the cameras as only 23% of the tickets generated by the system actually get paid. The city has no intention on shutting down the system because accidents declined by 32% in the intersections where the cameras were operating.


ESt1.jpgThe flash strobes and a couple cameras on a pole by Holiday Cinema at 1st and E

Red light camera programs around the nation have generated a lot of controversy. Many feel the cameras are an invasion of privacy and are another means for "Big Brother" to spy on citizens and control their lives. Red light cameras represent yet another small step towards complete control of our daily lives by the government. What could be next? Automated speed enforcement?

The cameras are also seen as a revenue generator that is merely disguised as a traffic safety tool. While some cities may be making a lot of money, other municipalities report receiving very little revenue from their programs, breaking even or even losing money. About 40 to 50% of the cost of a ticket goes to the State of California.

Alternatives to red light cameras include enforcing current traffic safety laws instead of investing in costly camera programs which may or may not increase traffic safety and city coffers. Money could also be better spent on more police officers to roam the city instead of stationary cameras positioned at a few intersections.

However, others feel that there is no excuse for running a red light because red-light runners are rarely caught and are putting other motorists' lives at risk.

It should be noted that experiments have been tried successfully with no traffic lights as well, and some see traffic cameras as a step in the wrong direction for certain intersections (see the experiment: [WWW]

In addition, several citizens have concerns over the strobe lights that flash to take photos when a red-light violation has occurred. The flash may be too bright, blinding motorists for a split second and causing a major accident. However, the flash may be just short enough to take a good photo of the driver and license plate. The flash may surprise motorists, but not blind them.

Also several motorists have falsely been photographed for making legal rights against the red.

Avoiding Fines

Some citizens have been so frustrated with red-light cameras that they have bought special sprays that prevent your license plate from being photographed. The spray reflects the flash back to the camera so that your license plate gets whited-out in the photo. The spray is invisible to the naked eye and was completely legal until December 31, 2007.

A new California law took effect on January 1, 2008. AB 801 makes it illegal to sell or use a product (spray coating) that obstructs or impairs the recognition of a license plate by an electronic device operated by police or toll authority. The fine for using a product to obscure a license plate is approximately $146, and the fine for selling such a product is approximately $900.


The success of a red-light camera program hinges on whether the program is able to perform down to the exact letter of the law so the program is able to hold up in court. Cities such as Fresno and Washington DC were unsuccessful because of problems such as wrongful citations, unclear photos and short yellow lights. These problems caused the citizens to challenge the camera program in court.

It is also important that municipalities treat red-light cameras as a traffic safety device rather than a revenue generator. Citizens will be much more accepting of the cameras if they know the program isn't just a scheme to squeeze money out of motorists. This can easily be avoided if revenues from the program are used solely for purposes such as increasing traffic safety or funding local schools. Even if the cameras do not generate money, they may be worth it to deter motorists from running red lights.

Further Reading

Locally Relevant

Brief Aside

Did you happen to hear about the guy who was cheating on his wife and his wife found out by opening the photo taken by the red light camera when it came in the mail? Apparently the guy was in a convertible and the lady was in his lap!


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In my opinion red light cameras are absolutely ridiculous. The key principle of our legal system is that every defendant has the right to face his or her accuser in court. If a witness points you out as commiting an illegal act, you are allowed to question, interogate, ect. the witness when you are on trial. how can you do this with the camera. If the camera had a technical problem you will be unjustly ticketed. There is no way of knowing if the camera is right, since the camera cant talk. In my opinion if the camera does not physically present itself at trial you should automatically win (just like when the cop doesnt show). Joking aside, what happens when someone else who looks similar to you is driving your car? I personally have a twin who drives the car all the time. Also, what happens if the car is registered to two different people who look similar, who do they send the ticket to?—MattHh

Depends what red light company they are from. If it's Redflex, then redlight runners are SCREWED. They use videotape and photos of front and back. The video also allows them to see if there were extenuating circumstances, such as the offender being tailgated. – ApolloStumpy

2006-04-06 15:13:43   Some of these red-light cameras are so close to the ground that you could knock them off the pole with a 2x4. Just an observation. —MichaelGiardina

2006-04-07 16:44:27   [WWW]An article that contains all you need to know on red light cameras.

Basically, (at least in Sacramento County) there are two coils in the roadway that activate .02 seconds after the light turns red. You have to cross both for a citation. Each time you cross the coil, it triggers the camera to take a photo showing your car at the intersection when the light was red and in the middle of the intersection as well, shoring up your violation. Red light cameras are a goddamn embarrasment for money hungry cities and counties looking to make a buch while flagrantly violating one's due process at the same time. I don't want to get into the legal sermon now, but any witness testifying at a criminal trial (which traffic court is) needs to have first hand knowledge of the incident in question. Some pig from the CHP who got some blurry photos plopped on his desk does not count. —StanOklobdzija

2006-04-07 18:53:06   What if you cross them on your bike when the light is red? I've done that countless times. —JjDeng

2006-04-08 14:18:10   The thing I always wondered is if these increase accidents from people stopping when they shouldn't at an intersection (like when the green turns yellow and they slam the brakes not to get a ticket). —RohiniJasavala

2006-04-10 20:02:16   Does anyone know what the camera looking things on top of the lights at the intersection for Sutter Hospital are for? I thought they were redlight cameras, I guess not. —ZacMorris

2006-04-12 16:25:28   From a bus driver... Okay, so here's the deal. If you cross the limit line, imaginary or painted, before the light goes red, you have the right-of-way in the intersection. This is why you are told to eke out into the intersection when you have a yield-left-on-green. That way, when the light goes yellow, you can still make the turn without waiting for the next cycle. You could sit and have a tea party (not recommended) and it'd be your right-of-way. When it's not: if you are one of those people who feels compelled to go through an intersection, green or yellow, without making sure you can go all the way through. (I personally hate those people since they block all kinds of traffic just to sit with their butt in the way, grr.) On that note, be nice to buses. We are 40' long, a kajillion tons, and can kick your ass; we're just opting not to. haha —JulieEickhof

2006-08-24 15:40:48   so does that camera light at sycamore and fifth actually catch you when you do that whole "no right turn on red?" —StacyWong

2006-10-01 00:00:48   Has any one been ticketed on sycamore and fifth when you do that whole "no right turn on red?" —ChrisBrown

2006-10-01 10:27:03   I went to Kragen yesterday and they told me the license plate spray that reflects the red light camera flash is now illegal. —EmmyMelton

2006-10-01 19:22:43   StacyWong- Did you ever get a ticket for that violation? I turned right on sycamore and rusell when the no right turn on the bike light turned on all of a sudden...I didn't see a flash though, is the flash obvious??? —ChrisBrown

2009-01-09 15:37:41   anyone know if there are red light cameras at pole line and cowell? they are some sort of camera, maybe emergency vehicle sensor but they face all directions —joeh

2009-03-11 01:30:49   I used to see flashes going off when people driving through the intersection in front of Borders (1st and Richards)ran red lights. I no longer see this. Perhaps they have stopped using the cameras, or perhaps I just haven't been around when people were driving through a red light (perhaps the population of Davis learned not to do that, so it is now a rare event?) Anyone know? —IDoNotExist

2009-07-20 23:25:16   I've had the light flash me when the light was green but not wearing my seatbelt. Can davis police use these cams to issue seatbelt tickets. Its happened twice im thinking its not by chance. Im just curious. —crich

2009-07-21 12:39:58   Anyone have any statistical data? It'd be nice to add it to the page. I remember about a year after these cameras were put in, there was an aggie article about them, with the numbers of how many citations were mailed out. A pretty hefty amount, iirc. And were any of the original fears when these were first put in about rising accident rates at these intersections turn out to be even remotely valid? —EdWins

2009-07-21 15:58:29   At the Sycamore/Russell intersection, I "accidently" went when the *green* bike signal went on, I was turning left from Sycamore to Russell. I didn't see a flash or anything, hoping I don't get a ticket. I guess I just wasn't paying attention and just saw the color green and started going. Any ideas? —mperkel

2009-07-21 16:04:02   My friend got ticketed at the First Street light for turning right. He had to basically pay the ticket, then go to court to have the ticket thrown out and have his money returned. —JoePomidor

2009-07-21 16:41:51   A similar thing happened to me at that same intersection, mperkel. I wasn't paying attention and when I saw the light change to green for the people turning onto Russell, I stupidly drove through the intersection. I felt awful about it and I'm glad I didn't cause an accident. I did however see a flash and knew I was going to get a ticket. Three months went by and I hadn't received anything in the mail so I called the police department. I was told that I most likely lucked out and was promptly told not to do it again. I would check to see if your license and car are registered with your current address. You can always call the police department like I did to see if there are any outstanding citations. —EmmyMelton

2009-08-04 18:30:13   I accidentally turned right at Russell and Sycamore when the no right turn on red went on all of the sudden, i didn't see the flash tho, just wondering if anyone has been ticketed for that before.

2009-10-04 15:49:52   So the directions such as eastbound indicate only one RLC aimed only in that direction? —RicardoSanchez

2009-10-04 15:52:27   If it's only a single RLC most of those making rights while performing a California stop or going even though there's a sign saying not to should be safe. —RicardoSanchez

2010-05-05 11:32:14   I recently fought a red light camera ticket and won. I was photographed by the 2nd and E st camera. I was shocked when I received the fine, $505, including traffic school. I decided to fight the ticket and requested trial by mail. I did my research and submitted a "not guilty" plea, based on hearsay evidence, and asked that the case be dismissed. I maintained that the officer was not present at the alleged offense, and was not present during the set-up, testing, operation or verification and validation of the system. A few weeks later I received a notice that the officer requested the case be dismissed and my bail was to be returned. If I had been found guilty, I planned to ask for a trial de novo, and if guilty there, I planned to appeal the verdict. They were going to have to work for my $505. My guess is it was too much work to actually prove the case and they decided to go after the other suckers that roll over and pay the money. —AllenJones

2010-08-15 16:04:52   Hey Allen, how did you request a trial by mail? Was it on the bail sheet where you can check "Trial by Declaration"? —Blaine

2011-04-21 20:33:53   I have ran at least 4 red lights on PoleLine and Covell by the Carls Jr. Never gotten a ticket :)

But if people feel that their privacy is being compromised, why don't they travel around in a little box? —NikhilDahal

"2011-11-14 09:45:42"   The same thing happened at Russell and Sycamore. It was late at night and I was turning left from Sycamore onto Russell. I saw the gree bike light go on and I stupidly thought I had a green light. Luckily I didn't hit any bicyclist (though they were pretty pissed off). I had a friend in the car and neither of us saw the flash go off. Hopefully I got really lucky. I think the sensors thought there was a bunch of bikes riding through the middle of the interesection but I'm still really scared. Does anyone know how long the ticket will take to come in the mail if I do get one? The incident happened ten days ago but still nothing. —RaviGupta

2011-11-14 12:30:11   Not too long ago I was driving on east on Russell and stopped at the red light at Sycamore, but I must have gone a little bit over the line because I saw the flash go off. It will be interesting to see if they send me a ticket... —CovertProfessor

2012-01-14 16:35:34   Today on Russel and Sycamore, I full stopped at the red light for a while before I made a right. But, as I made a right the no right turn sign turned on, I didn't see a flash. Did any of you end up getting a ticket for making that right turn on Sycamore? —JLee05

2012-03-09 19:13:04   Today, I made a right turn on First street and saw a flash. I was completely legal. Does this mean I'm going to get a ticket? Does the police department actually view the video footage before issuing a citation? I made a full stop, and after I saw the flash, I didn't even turn, because I was too afraid to get flashed again when my back tires went over the line. My car was about a foot over the line at worst. I just don't want to go through the hassle of fighting it.—rohee

Is the camera on sycamore and covell by three pigs market a red light camera or just LEDdar? I'm worried I ran a red light but my friend thinks I made it. I'm just wondering if there is even a possibility I would get one. Thanks.

2012-04-04 19:11:44   Is the camera on sycamore and covell by three pigs market a red light camera or just LEDdar? I'm worried I ran a red light but my friend thinks I made it. I'm just wondering if there is even a possibility I would get one. Thanks. —Suzyjones

2012-07-01 10:55:18   I dont think the camera at Covell and Sycamore is a red light camera. I have looked it up on several websites and all the others are listed, but not this intersection. Even if you did get a ticket there, no sign is displayed that tells you it is a red light camera which by law there has to be one. So im sure anyone could get out of the ticket just based on that. —elizabeth2014 That is not a red light camera, most likely it's LEDDAR a IR range finding sensor that switches the lights, it also can be configured to do traffic analysis but I do not believe it functions in that capacity for the city

"2012-10-28" I was on Richards turning left onto 1st street. Is there a RLC there????? How long before a ticket will be issued if there is one? I did not see a flash go off. Thanks!——KyungCHo
If there wasn't a flash I don't think they took the photo. The intersection is video taped, and then the photo is the proof of the violation (a photo of your front wheels behind the white line when the light is red, and then another photo with it infront of the white line and the light still red) It takes roughly 2-3 weeks for it to arrive in the mail if they did send you one... This is per my friend who got one during the grace period when it debuted Daubert

2014-01-22 00:09:26   the other day I went through a yellow light at richards and first, and saw a flash. I'm wondering why it went off, has anyone received a speeding ticket from these red light cameras, I'm wondering if my speed was what triggered the flash? —sinsisterkid

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