Q&A - Red Light Cameras

Q&A ImageI liked your article on left hand turns and taking the time to make sure you do it safely.

However I find myself asking one question after reading your comments, what are the technical details surrounding the use of red light cameras at intersections? Particularly with regard to left turns. Do these cameras make people even more prone to charging ahead on a left turn light when they think that they may be dinged with a ticket from the red light cameras? Possibly you could explain for the general public the technicalities of the red light camera usage and exactly when they should or should not worry about getting a ticket through the red light cameras used?

Myself personally have always thought that if I entered the intersection legally during a green light to make a left hand turn but was forced to wait until at least the yellow light, then I was not going to get a red light camera ticket. However even I am not sure I am completely correct. I deem that I had entered the intersection when my vehicle passed the stop line on the asphalt. Past that stop line point I am "in" the intersection and did not 'enter' the intersection on either the yellow nor the red light.


How Red Light Cameras Work

There isn't much direct information to be found about red light cameras here in BC but there are many lists of where they are installed.

Essentially the sensing loops in the pavement recognize a vehicle that is not stopping once the light has turned red. It takes two pictures of the vehicle, one outside of the intersection showing the red light the driver is facing and one inside the intersection contrary to the red light. If you have conducted your left turn properly, you have nothing to fear from the camera. It knows that you are in the intersection when the light turns red and disregards your vehicle.

The Motor Vehicle Act deems that you are in the intersection once you have passed the lateral extension of the curb lines, or in the abscence of curbing, the edges of the roadway. This generally does not correspond with the stop line or painted crosswalk, if any. ICBC takes the same view on a driver's test according to this topic.

From what I have learned by reading about red light cameras drivers tend to slam on the brakes to avoid getting a red light camera ticket. This means that there is a reduction in intersection crashes but an increase in rear end collisions. That probably says something about safe following distances and how much attention other drivers pay to what is happening around them. This is probably a good trade as side impact collisions produce significant injury and death more often than rear end collisions.

You can see examples of red light camera photos and more information on ICBC's web site. There is also some good information on the Drivers.com web site.

Eight years later

If I have my remembered facts right, there are now 140 intersections in BC employing these devices. 

The busiest of them cover West Georgia at Denman.

Recently, it was revealed that they can also monitor vehicle speeds, and issue tickets to the owners. And, in fact, 25% of them (35 intersections) have now had these activated.

Interestingly, they all seem to be sign-posted in advance, to deter everybody from breaking the rules. 

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