How do red light cameras work?

Red light cameras detect motor vehicles that pass sensors after a traffic signal has turned red. The sensors are connected to computers in high-speed cameras that take photographs of the violation. Depending on the particular technology in use at the intersection, a series of photographs and/or video images show the red light violator before entering the intersection on a red signal, as well as the vehicle's progression through the intersection. Cameras record information such as date, time, and time elapsed since the beginning of the red signal. Trained law enforcement officials review the photographs, and a violation notice is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Where can I find the statute that allows for the installation of red light cameras in Texas?

Section 707.003 of the Texas Transportation Code addresses the installation and operational requirements, including contracting with a vendor, conducting a traffic engineering study, the selection of intersection approaches, the role of a citizen's advisory committee and the installation of signs. The traffic engineering study may be conducted by using the sample TxDOT Engineering Analysis template.

How long does it take to implement red light cameras?

TxDOT has estimated that implementations should take no more than 170 days and could take as little as 80 days.

TxDOT's ability to get the Inter Local Agreement (ILA) signed and get the configuration requirements met is the key to determining how long their implementation will take. If an agency is able to move forward quickly on these two key areas TxDOT will be able to get them up and running in Pilot mode in very short order.

Can red light cameras be installed on Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) roadways or on TxDOT right-of-way?

Cities may pursue the installation of red light cameras on TxDOT right-of-way through an amendment to the Municipal Maintenance Agreement (MMA). Cities without an executed MMA and counties, however, are not allowed to place the equipment on state right-of-way. Cities with an executed MMA must inform the local TxDOT district office of their intention to install the equipment. TxDOT has the right to review and approve the plans and inspect the installation even though it is a city contractor performing the work.

What is the format for the before and after crash data reports, as required by Section 707.004 of the Transportation Code, and how are the reports to be submitted to TxDOT?

The 18 months of before crash data and annual after crash data reports consist of a web-based reporting system where local jurisdictions enter the crash data for each intersection approach. Reporting requirement instructions have been developed and can be found at the TxDOT website.

Is there any requirement for the disposition of fines collected through red light cameras?

Yes. Section 707.008 of the Transportation Code outlines specific requirements for revenue collected through red light cameras. For questions on revenue required to be deposited in the regional trauma account or a local authority's special account to fund traffic safety programs, contact the state comptroller's office.

Isn't the main purpose of red light cameras to make money?

No. The objective of red light cameras is to improve intersection safety. Fines collected through red light camera violations are used to pay for the installation, operation, administration and maintenance of the photographic enforcement system. Camera equipment costs vary based on the type of camera, the complexity of the intersection, and technical requirements. A red light camera system installation can cost more than $100,000. A portion of the revenue from the installation over and above costs is required to be directed to the regional trauma account and local traffic safety programs.

Do cameras photograph every vehicle passing through an intersection?

No. Cameras are set so that only those vehicles that enter the intersection after the light has turned red are photographed. Vehicles entering the intersection on yellow, and still in the intersection when the light turns red, are not photographed.

Wouldn't increasing the length of the yellow signal at an intersection decrease the occurrence of red light running?

Allowing adequate yellow timing can reduce red light running, but longer yellow time alone does not eliminate the need or potential benefits of red light cameras. Yellow times at signals are determined based on variables such as the posted speed limit, typical deceleration rates of vehicles, the grade of the road, and motorist perception-reaction time.

Will motorists know which intersections have red light cameras?

Section 707.004 of the Texas Transportation Code requires that cities install signs along each roadway that leads to an intersection at which a red light camera is in use. Two types of signs are currently available to comply with the new legislation and both are documented in TxDOT's 2012 Standard Highway Sign Designs for Texas (SHSD) manual.

The first and most common type of sign is the Photo Enforced symbol sign (designated as R10-18a). This rectangular-shaped sign was developed specifically for the advance notice of photo enforced intersections. Design details of the sign can be found on page 1-198 of the SHSD.

A second type of sign is the Signal Ahead symbol warning sign (designated as W3-3) with the PHOTO ENFORCED plaque (designated as W16-10aP) mounted below. The W3-3 warning sign is typically installed when there is limited sight distance on an approach to a signalized intersection. Installation of the W16-10aP plaque below an existing W3-3 warning sign would result in compliance with the signing requirements for Red Light Cameras. Design details of the sign and plaque can be found on page 2-36 and 2-182 respectively in the SHSD manual.

Doesn't placing signs on the approach to intersections with red light cameras defeat the purpose of installing the cameras?

No. The purpose of the red light cameras is to improve intersection safety by reducing the number of red light violations. If the advance notice signs stop motorists from running red lights rather than the cameras themselves, then the purpose of this program is being met.

Can the cameras be used to enforce other types of traffic violations (speed, railroad crossings, etc.)?