Do Petersburg’s Red Light Cameras Protect Drivers?

Red light cameras are a hot topic.  This is especially true in our community after the installation of 3 new red light cameras in the City of Petersburg.  These cameras are operating at the intersection of South Adams and Washington, and 2 intersections at Wagner and South Crater.

Virginia Code Section 15.2-968.1 grants localities the authority to utilize red-light camera technology to monitor intersections.  Each locality is permitted to install and operate one traffic-light-signal-photo-monitoring-system for every 10,000 residents within each locality.  The Virginia Code further states that tickets resulting from red-light cameras shall not exceed $50 and cannot become part of a driving record or affect insurance rates.  (However, court costs are likely to be more than the ticket itself).

According to Petersburg Police Sgt. Haywood James, the primary purpose behind the cameras is to improve public safety. The red light camera intersections were identified as intersections where the “most violations occur.”  It is unclear whether “violation” means auto accidents or simply traffic violations in which no one was injured.  This information was based on a study conducted by the Petersburg Bureau of Police and RedFlex.  (RedFlex is a leader in traffic enforcement products and is projected to profit from the red-light cameras in Petersburg).

City council expects these cameras to bring about $21,000 a month in revenue to the city and to be self-sustaining.

It is unclear whether these cameras actually reduce accidents.  Studies conducted on this topic offer differing conclusions based on the source of the study.  (Who pays for the study).  Studies cited by cities, red light camera companies, and police departments typically tout the benefits in auto accident reduction that red light cameras bring.  Studies cited by public interest groups generally highlight an overall increase in car accidents that accompany the installation of red-light cameras.  See the studies cited by the Federal Highway Administration: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/05049/.

What is clear is that traffic violations at intersections can pose significant health risks to drivers in our community.  Each year more than 800 people are killed and 200,000 people are injured as a result of cars running red lights.  That means that every day two people die unnecessarily at the hands of a driver who runs a red light.  This is indeed a sad statistic and one that we hope will be dramatically reduced by the introduction of red light cameras in our community.

If you or someone you know has been injured at a traffic intersection, we can help.  For over 30 years Cuthbert Law Offices has specialized in Petersburg auto accidents and injuries, as well as social security disability.