(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Dennis Yang

Filed Under:
red light cameras

Yet Another Cheating Red Light Camera

from the green-light dept

Stories about the outrage over red light cameras have started to go mainstream. And given that some suspect the cameras are rigged in favor of revenue over safety, it's to be expected that some of the caught drivers would start to fight back. Reader Josh submitted this story about a math tutor, Mike Mogil, who took it upon himself to challenge the red light ticket his wife received by claiming that the yellow light was unfairly short (via the Consumerist). Armed with a stopwatch, Mogil timed the yellow lights in his town and found that the yellow light in question only lasted 3.8 seconds, much shorter than the 4.5 seconds that the county guidelines require. With this information, he challenged the ticket, which was then dropped by the courts. That said, this is not the first time that red light cameras have been found to be unfairly trapping motorists. After all, since red light camera programs can be big revenue generators, there is great incentive to cheat a little to bump up the revenue. The result is just another reminder that it could pay to fight if you ever get trapped. That said, if our governments need more revenue, perhaps they should find it through more honest, transparent means rather than under the false guise of public safety.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ryan, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 3:36pm

    We Can't Get Rid of Them

    Doing so would "cost" the government $XXX _illion of taxpayer money that citizens would then have to keep for themselves for more productive and more efficient uses. Can't have that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    VancouverDave, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 3:54pm

    One thing missing from all these stories

    Why is it that the @$$wipes who order the change in timing are never charged with a criminal offense?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Daddy Warbuck, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    Too big they fail

    When the government can justify cheating in a dangerous way to increase revenue, they are too damn big and need to be cut back. Start cutting the salaries of the bloated, overpaid bureaucrats, then move to the programs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 4:00pm

    Re: One thing missing from all these stories

    Because the Bureaucracy would not be willing to bite its own hand, and so few private citizens are willing to engage in private prosecution (if they are even aware of its existence).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    jfgilbert (profile), Apr 19th, 2010 @ 4:53pm

    The town of San Mateo (CA) has recently announced that they were ending the red light camera program. That's good, but the funny part is that also said that they stopped it because it was not profitable. When they put the cameras up, the justification is always that it will improve safety at a dangerous intersection. Then, if it is not profitable, it proves that it worked beautifully as a deterrent, so it is a success. Right? What I don't understand is why they are now ending such a successful program.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Blamer .., Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:01pm

    cameras Vs timing

    Apparently the balance of traffic safety studies indicate that cameras don't make intesections safer, and that the best way to do that is to increase the delay between "their red" and "your green".

    Perhaps somebody would care to check that.

    If confirmed we could say that shaving the 'yellow' (when adding a camera) is tantamount to making an intersection more dangerous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Beth Hughes, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:04pm

    Red Light Cameras.

    SIMPLE SOLUTION - if people stop blatantly running red lights -then there would be no need for the cameras in the first place. As a life long pedestrian I cannot tell you how many times I've nearly been hit while in a cross walk when I clearly had the walk light and the person turning left had a very clear red! On another note, I've also nearly been hit by cars turing right and failing to look for pedestrians in the cross walk.

    I agree it's not right for municipalities to shorten the yellow to below standard timing, but I don't agree it's OK for people to run lights because the person in front of them did so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Pote, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:08pm

    Keep the cameras, change the focus

    Start sending fines to people who throw cigarette butts and other trash out the window at red lights. Then the cameras will be really useful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    OtherKevin, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:18pm

    They left out the rest of the story...

    ...which is that he also decided to spot check several dozen other intersections in town that also had redlight cameras, and he found that all of them that he tested were rigged to provide yellow phases shorter than those required by law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Fellow Pedestrian, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    Re: Red Light Cameras.

    You got it, Beth. No matter how long the yellow, etc. The bottom line is that RED means STOP. Right on red included. Yellow doesn't mean you speed up and try to beat it. Yellow means the light's about to turn RED, so you should slow down. And ditto for stop signs. I see people drive past stop signs like they don't exist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    PhilD, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Red Light Cameras.

    Beth, your story is on it's face more than a bit confusing, If you were "nearly run over" by someone completing a left turn with their light being red, you would be crossing AGAINST the light affecting you.

    People turning left often get trapped in the intersection and have to with for the light to change to complete thier turn, this is know of and expected. If you are already IN the intersection you are expected to get out of the way so as to not block the other traffic.

    Chicago has a new (here anyway) feature, the walk light is wider and next to the symbol has a countdown timer that hits zero exactly when the light goes yellow.
    Personally I LOVE those and hope that they appear on every light in the city.
    It's REALLY nice to know from 1/2 block away if you need to coast or start hitting your brakes or just keep on through.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    DJ (profile), Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Too big they fail

    The very first President and Congressional members earned a whopping salary of $0.00. Their position in Congress was actually that of SERVICE. In today's world I think it would make things a little awkward for them to have to find another job, but a $100K or greater salary is F-ing ridiculous!
    Three solutions:
    1)Congressional term limits -- perhaps 4 terms
    2)Congressional salary cap of $75K
    3)While lobbying for stuff is acceptable, make professional lobbyists illegal

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    DJ (profile), Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:56pm

    Re: cameras Vs timing

    Here's an even better solution, and it's 100% free to taxpayers:
    Teach your kids right from wrong!! Be a parent! Teach them that their actions have consequences, and the likelihood of them breaking the law decreases.
    Don't let the government raise your kids; they'll only teach according to their own agenda.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Fungo Knubb (profile), Apr 19th, 2010 @ 5:59pm


    It seems that those who should be our public servants have become our public masters. How about local governments act to make life easier on their constituents rather than like the scam artists that they really are? Me thinks its time to vote everyone out! ... at all levels!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Red Light Cameras.


    I don't know how many times I have had a green narrow and a bunch of pedestrians try jet into the street thinking they have right of way. I am upto 10 people run over so far in front of CNN in Atlanta. And I have never gotten a ticket. I have been sued a few times, but won every case and got paid damages.

    I certainly hope you wait for the light to tell you to go.

    As for the cameras, Some friends used to have fun shooting out the cameras in one of our towns. The funny part is that the city refuses to accept defeat and keeps replacing the cams. A Lapua round makes a mess out of a camera in a ballistic housing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

    taking 0.7 out of a yellow light should not be an issue, unless that level is less than the law. if it is just recommended standards it means little. plus the red light camera shouldnt go off if you have crossed the line under yellow. it would mean that they were really running the red.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 6:27pm

    Re: Flip-Flop

    Why wait to vote? Walk right in and demand resignations... if they refuse, you escort them out... bleeding and broken if necessary. Bring a mob. It is called a Coup d'etat. The same needs to happen in Washington.

    This is why liberals want guns taken away from citizens... so they cannot exercise their right to remove the government; by force if necessary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 6:55pm


    Apparently the judge, the county, and reality disagree with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Re:

    once you have engaged the intersection...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Re: Red Light Cameras.

    The time that the light must be yellow is there because you can't stop a car instantly. The timing is generally higher on streets with higher speed limits for exactly this reason.

    Dropping the delay below the minimum threshold means that people cannot safely stop their cars before the light simply because it isn't physically possible to bring an object the weight of a car to a stop in such a small amount of time safely.

    You assume that people are trying to beat the yellow by speeding up. This may not be the case. Even people that are obeying the speed limit may find themselves unable to avoid running the red light.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 9:08pm

    Here's a really wild and crazy thought....

    Instead of speeding through the yellow light, why can't drivers just be prepared to stop at an intersection where they don't know how long it's been green already? Then the need to rush through a yellow light wouldn't generally be an issue.

    I mean I'm not saying people need to actually slow down whenever they come to an intersection, but all it takes is the willingness to be prepared to stop and the problem solves itself. And if there's really not enough time to stop safely, then one is probably either going faster than the speed limit or else so close to the intersection when the light changed yellow that one can probably be on the other side of the light well before it turns red anyways.

    If one really needs to speed up to clear an intersection before the light turns red, then they weren't prepared to stop before they got there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 10:17pm

    "That said, if our governments need more revenue"

    Our governments don't need more revenue. More revenue to do what, to use it to subject us to further tyranny? NO THANKS!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    bob, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 12:07am


    If you get a traffic ticket fight it. Hell here in my area if you get a ticket from the sheriffs department they can't afford to send the deputy to court because of the lack of overtime funds.
    Most of the time the officer will not show up, for speeding and lesser offenses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:12am

    Who actually set the timer to go shorter than is safe? It was a tech/engineer right? Why isn't that person being held accountable? He's not in the bureacracy and he willfully put people's lives at stake. This is why it is important for people in tech programs at university to take ethics classes. Because when your employer says, "I want you to put these peoples' lives in danger", you can tell him to screw.

    End of the day, regardless of who gave the order, a person sat down at a terminal and said, "What I am about to do is going to put people in danger. It may even hurt of kill people simply because my boss wants to make more money. And I'm okay with that."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Red Light Cameras.

    Momentum is a bitch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    abc gum, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 5:29am


    "all it takes is the willingness to be prepared to stop and the problem solves itself."

    Possibly you missed the part where length of yellow is insufficient time to stop the vehicle safely prior to entering the intersection.

    Not to mention the idiot tailgating you, who will hit you when the brakes are applied more than softly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Beta, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 7:21am

    another data point

    Years ago I was busted for running a red light and fought it. I timed the yellow light: 2 seconds. That's right, two seconds. For a long left turn lane through a large intersection. A little basic math showed that if the light turned yellow just as you were entering the intersection, it was physically impossible to get through at legal speed before it turned red.

    I won, and wondered why they hadn't fixed the timing long ago, until I noticed that there were three other people in court that day for basically the same offense, paying hundreds of dollars in fines.

    Oh, and the officer in question didn't show up, his deposition was enough.

    (I've also been honked at for not entering an intersection on green when there wasn't room to get out of it. Some people are just thick.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    AnonCow, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 12:30pm

    I'm waiting for the lawsuit against a city that shortened their yellow lights to bump up camera revenue revenue. Sooner or later someone is going to claim that a city intentionally shortened the yellow light that caused their car accident.

    Then all that additional revenue will start going to pay lawsuits, not city-employed union members as salary, overtime, and platinum-plated retirement plans.

    That's a tough call on my evil scale. Liability attorneys or municipal employee union members...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Henry, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 6:29pm

    How we do you in California

    For those who live in California, or might visit, here is a special note about California camera tickets. (As in many fields of endeavor, we do it differently. Not better, just differently.)

    Here they cost about $500! And a point on your license. Because our tickets put a point on your license, the police have to identify the actual driver before they can file the ticket at court. Since the photo of the plates leads only to the registered owner ("RO"), and he/she often was not the person driving the car, about 40 California police depts. mail out Snitch Tickets, which are fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out to fool the RO into ID'ing the actual driver of the car. Snitch Tickets haven't been filed with the court, so are recognizable because they don't say "Notice to Appear," don't have the court's address, and say (on the back, in small letters), "Do not contact the court." Since they have NOT been filed with the court, they have no legal weight. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2010 @ 9:53pm


    lol, learn some history, Washington didn't want a salary, he was rich, he had the gov pay all his bills, pay for what he needed pay for his expenses etc... and after him, they established a pay check for the pres

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    ginger, May 21st, 2010 @ 8:23am

    I knew it I have been saying this for months these lights do not give you enofe time to get though them, why even have a yellow (warning) light if they are going to go straight to red. Those things are just a revenue stream for the city and on top of that they are going to cause more accidents I find my self at a yellow light now more worrie if there is a camera that if there is a car comming towards me or slamming on the breaks if there is. We only have so many seconds to respond to a situation let alone to through in a camera to the mix. I am outraged at these cameras, use them to catch killers or to reduce high speed chases not people who just got caught by a yellow light in lue of bad timming.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    That Guy who's royally pissed, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 8:45am

    I've been tagged unfairly by red light cameras TWICE!

    First off, they ticketed me on a right-on-red violation where, despite the fact that I stopped completely before turning (and yes, right on red at that specific intersection IS legal), my damn front bumper crossed the first white line by about half an inch. Half a f**king inch! Since when has half a damn inch ever been a safety hazard? I'll tell you: NEVER! Especially when I was the only car at said intersection.

    And the second time... well, to just be blunt, they ticketed me on a GREEN light! Yeah, you read that right: A GREEN light that I saw with my own damn two eyes. I fought it, of course, but they called in some technician who presented a doctored video showing the light red. And as you're probably suspecting, yes, the judge ruled against me because "cameras never lie" and "the law is always right". "The law is always right" my ass.

    To further compound this and show how corrupt things are in my town, I've watched pedestrians jaywalking, other cars jetting into heavy traffic, and cars on the highway going 80 and 90 MPH, all right in front of cops who never do a damn thing about it. It's ridiculous.

    I have no doubt that the situations in the towns that other commentators on this article live in are no better, but I urge anyone reading this to avoid the Marysville and Yuba City areas on any trips through central California if possible, because you're bound to get the same treatment that I have and be wrongly ticketed and pissed on by the so-called law when you dissent. Quite simply, the cops there aren't cops, they're THUGS!

    Red light cameras need to come down. They don't do crap about intersection safety, they steal money from law-abiding citizens. Thanks to the two tickets above, I'm paying over $300 a month on car insurance all while being disabled and limping by every month on less than $900 total income. I'm sure you can do the math on the rest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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