Red Light Camera Ticket Thrown Out

A technicality could cost the state a few million bucks

Red light cameras have become a popular traffic control tool across the country over the past few years, and as their use has grown so has pushback from motorists. A woman in San Francisco recently fought and had her red light ticket thrown out on a technicality -- a technicality that could cost the city of Newark, Calif., millions of dollars.

Keisha Dunlevy was issued a ticket in Newark for allegedly running a red light. In traffic court Dunlevy argued that the public hadn't been properly notified of the red light cameras at that intersection. A notice did run in the newspaper in November of 2006, but contained an error. "A camera has been installed at the intersection of Cedar Boulevard and Mowry Avenue to capture vehicles that run the red light as they travel east on both streets," the notice read. Cedar Boulevard, however, runs north and south.

The traffic commissioner ruled in Dunlevy's favor, sparing her the $500 fine and opening the door to millions of dollars worth of tickets being challenged. Roger Jones, a red light camera activist, told CBS San Francisco that Newark should refund all the tickets issued from cameras at this intersection from the last six years.

"I do hope that this motivates other people to always check into their ticket," Dunlevy told CBS San Francisco. "[Don't] just take it because the officer said it was wrong."

The effectiveness of red light cameras as a safety measure has been called into question numerous times in the recent past. The reality is only 2% of auto fatalities occur due to cars not stopping at red lights, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

A 2011 study suggests red light cameras can actually cause more accidents, as drivers slam on their brakes rather than speed through yellow lights that might net them a ticket. Intersections with red light cameras also tend to have shorter yellow lights, sometimes shorter then the state minimum, as was recently the case in Tampa Bay, Fla.

Critics maintain that red light cameras are less about keeping the public safe and more about generating revenue.

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