Are Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems Speed Traps?

Technically yes according to the law!  Did you know speed traps are illegal in California?

California Vehicle Code defines a speed trap (in section 40802) as a section of a highway “measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance”.

So, automated red light camera system systems are technically illegal speed traps as defined in California law because of the sensors placed in the ground used to measure speed. Could this be a contributing factor to why class action lawsuits are finally being launched against major camera companies or why cities such as El Monte, Fresno, Moreno Valley, Union City, and earlier this year, Costa Mesa, have shut down their camera systems? 

Automated enforcement systems were designed to record an incident that occurs during the red phase of the light.  However, do wonder how do red light cameras work?   A vehicle triggers the system by passing over a measured distance in the roadway (two sets of inductive loops are cut into the pavement). These sensors record the time it takes for the vehicle to cross the distance between the sensors and calculates the speed of the vehicle based upon the distance and the elapsed time for the vehicle to cross it. If the vehicle is over the set threshold then the system activates. Thus the calculated speed of the vehicle is used to trigger the camera (which records and stores information for use in later issuing a ticket for the prosecution of a red light violation).

Contributed by, helping drivers contest and dismiss their traffic tickets.


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