What Is A Red Light Camera?

what is a red light camera

Red light cameras are designed to take images of vehicles approaching a particular intersection after the traffic light turns red. You are definitely safe if you reach the intersection before the light turns red. Entering the intersection means that when the light is red and turning red the front tires are completely across the white line. If you are crossing the white line when the light is red it will be a ticket. 

By automatically photographing cars running red lights, the photograph is proof that helps police enforce traffic laws. Generally, when a car approaches the intersection (passes the stop bar), the camera is activated after the traffic signal has turned red.

Typically, a law enforcement official will review the photographic evidence and determine whether a violation occurred. A citation is then usually mailed to the owner of the vehicle found to be in violation of the law. These cameras are used worldwide, in China, in European countries, and in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and the United States. More than 75 countries worldwide use red-light cameras.

If a correct identification can not be made, some police departments may give the vehicle's owner a notice of violation instead of a citation, demanding the identifying details so that a citation can be given later.

Red light cameras are usually mounted at intersections in secure metal boxes fixed to poles (different from the radar weapons carried by police officers) and are most explicitly selected due to high levels of collisions and/or red-light violations. Red light camera systems usually use two inductive loops that are closely spaced and embedded in the pavement just before the limit line to determine vehicle speed. Using the calculated speed, the machine determines whether a single vehicle can not stop before approaching the intersection, and takes two photographs of the occurrence. The first photo shows the vehicle just before it enters the intersection, with the light showing red, and the second photo, taken a second or two later, shows the vehicle when it is at the intersection.

Details that could be captured by the camera system (and subsequently shown to the vehicle owner) include the date and time, the position, the speed of the vehicle, and the amount of time that has elapsed since the light turned red and the vehicle crossed into the intersection. The incident is recorded as a series of photos or a video clip, or both, depending on the equipment used, which shows the vehicle before approaching the intersection on a red light signal and its progress through the intersection. Data and videos, whether digital or film-developed, are submitted to the appropriate law enforcement authority.

Studies have shown that 38% of violations occur within 0.25 seconds of turning red light and 79% within a second. A few red light camera systems allow a "grace period" of up to half a second for drivers driving through the intersection just as the light turns red. 

Ohio and Georgia adopted a law requiring one second to be applied to the regular yellow time of every intersection that has a red light camera, leading to a reduction in tickets of 80 percent since its launch.  New Jersey has the most stringent yellow timing rules in the world due to fears that cameras will be used to raise revenue; they have a law requiring that the yellow time for an intersection with a red light camera must be focused on the speed at which 85 percent of road traffic travels, rather than on the actual speed limit of road traffic.


In certain police departments in California, where a definitive identification can not be made, the vehicle's registered owner will be issued a traffic violation warning instead of a real ticket. Often known as "snitch tickets" these documents are used during the suspected infringement to request identity information about the vehicle's driver.  Since these notices were not filed in court, they hold no legal weight and there is no duty on the registered owner to answer. A genuine ticket in California will bear the name and address of the Superior Court's local branch, which will direct the purchaser to contact that court. In contrast, a notice of traffic violation generated by the police will omit court information, using statements like "This is not a notice to appear" and "Do not forward this information to the Court."] Running a red light on a hospital drive can cost up to $2,000.

How To Tell If You Ran a Red Light Camera?

How Do Cameras Work?



How Long Does It Take to Receive a Ticket? 

If the camera takes a picture of your license plate and driver, a qualified officer checks the photo and ensures that you were actually running the red light. A ticket (ranging from $50 $500) will be sent to the address indicated on the vehicle's registration within around 5-7 business days.

Is This a Red Light Camera?

Many drivers mistook red light cameras for traffic cameras.  Read our blog post and see our red light cameras map for the type of camera at an intersection.

What do red light cameras look like?

Photo Enforced Sign Meaning

what is a red light camera
Red Light Camera vs Traffic Camera

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