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July 21, 2010 Published in Traffic & Transportation

Red-light Cameras Will Begin Issuing “Live” Tickets In Arlington County Today

Red-Light Running Is A Dangerous Form Of Aggressive Driving, Says AAA

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time,” so goes the old saying. The same is true about traffic tickets and fines, especially if you are caught running red lights at intersections in Arlington County.  The 30-day grace period ends today. If you blow through the red light at four of the County’s “heavily trafficked” intersections you will receive a ticket in the mail.

“Where’s the outrage? Red-light running is not acceptable driving behavior and it is a widespread and pernicious traffic safety problem in the Washington metro area,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “It endangers the lives of everyone at the intersection, including other drivers and their passengers, and pedestrians. We must all learn not to run red lights.”

Over seven out of ten motorists rated red light running as a serious problem, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows. Yet over half of those same individuals admitted to speeding up to get through yellow lights, and 5 percent even admitted to having run a red light on purpose in the past month,” Townsend  noted. “Motorists must avoid running red lights and each of us must also shoulder the responsibility and police ourselves to be safer, smarter drivers.”

Arlington County has dubbed its photo enforced red-light program “PhotoRED.” Red-light cameras have been activated at the following Arlington County intersections:

Eastbound Lee Highway at North Lynn Street.
Southbound Ft. Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway.
Westbound Lee Highway at Washington Boulevard.
Northbound North Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive

Red-light running has deadly consequences, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. For example, 762 people lost their lives in crashes that involved red light running in 2008, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners, reports the IIHS. That same year, 137, 000 persons were injured in crashes involving red-light running.

Two of the most critical aggressive driving problems are road rage and red light running,” an earlier study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows. On the other hand, research also shows that not all motorists are running red lights because they are aggressive,” notes AAA.  Some are running the light because they’re not paying attention.

After an absence of five years, red-light cameras are officially returning to Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach, and other jurisdictions around the Commonwealth. Five years ago the Virginia General Assembly outlawed the programs, including the systems in Alexandria, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Falls Church and Vienna.

However, in 2007 the General Assembly reversed course and passed legislation (HB 1778, Cosgrove) empowering jurisdictions to use the technology, subject to certain restrictions. For example, jurisdictions in Northern Virginia are allowed to install “up to 10 camera sites or 1 site per 10,000 residents, whichever is greater.”

Arlington County is authorized to “monitor a total of 20 intersections by Virginia State Code guidelines of one intersection per 10,000 residents,” county officials say. Virginia Beach installed the first of 20 red-light cameras back in March, officials there say.  Arlington County officials say the following criteria were used to determine the monitored sites:

Accident rate for the intersection.
Rate of red light violations occurring at the intersection.
Difficulty police have experienced when apprehending violators – either in patrol cars or on foot.
Ability of police to apprehend violators safely within a reasonable distance from the violation.
Pedestrian safety.

The revival of red-light cameras in Virginia comes as a backlash against the technology is spreading across the country. The Ohio legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill prohibiting the use of red-light cameras and speed cameras in the state. The Anaheim City Council passed an amendment that prohibits the installation of traffic-enforcement systems in the city.

The penalty for a photo enforced red light running violation in Arlington County is a $50.00 fine. However, court costs are not associated with the fine. AAA strongly supports traffic safety measures designed to reduce red light running, including increased enforcement and traffic-engineering improvements. While law enforcement officers are the most effective red light running deterrent, AAA believes that red light cameras have the potential to increase traffic safety when used responsibly.