San Diego's Red Light Cameras

California is notable for many things. The state is the fifth largest food supplier in the entire world, producing over 450 different crops. It’s home to America’s thriving film industry and is credited for being the birthplace of the internet.

Unfortunately, another thing California is known for is having the highest rate of vehicle accidents caused by drivers running red lights. 

In an effort to reduce red light collisions and make roadways safer, many of the state’s largest cities, including San Diego, have installed red light cameras to catch violators in the act.

Californians from areas where red light cameras aren’t used may be surprised to learn that they can be ticketed based on the information conveyed in a photograph. Many states deem red light cameras illegal, and drivers from these states may want to fight a red light ticket for that reason.

While the system is inherently flawed, and some violations can be legitimately defended, red light tickets are entirely legal in California. As such, ignoring a violation could result in jail time and a hefty fine.

How Do Red Light Cameras Work?

Unless you notice the camera flash as you pass through an intersection without stopping, you may not realize you’ve encountered a red light camera. These units are made up of two components: sensors placed near the road and cameras synchronized with the sensors.

When a vehicle crosses the line of sensors while the light is red, it triggers the camera to take a photo. If a vehicle crosses the line of sensors while the light is green or yellow and then stops, the camera won’t be triggered.

In other words, if the light changes from yellow to red after a vehicle has already passed the line of sensors, the camera won’t take a photograph that can be used as justification for fining the driver.

Most San Diego red light cameras take two photos, one as the car crosses the line and another as it moves through the intersection. The second photo also captures the vehicle’s license plate. Red light camera systems also record the intersection location, the date and time, and the speed of the vehicle.

Map of Red Light Cameras in San Diego

What Happens Next?

Drivers who have violated the law will receive a citation in the mail that contains all the information related to their offense, including the amount of the fine. In San Diego, red light tickets typically cost between $100 and $480. Citations for an illegal right turn on red are less, but other fees can increase the total cost of a violation.

In addition to incurring fees, a red-light violation will add one point to your driving record and may increase the cost of your insurance premiums. If your violation caused a collision or the death of another person, you may be arrested for reckless driving or charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Flaws With the Red Light Camera System

No technology is perfect. It’s possible to receive a false ticket if the equipment isn’t working correctly or the sensors are too sensitive. The photo must clearly identify the car, the license plate, and the driver to be legitimate. Though rare, there are also cases where a ticket gets sent to the wrong person. 

If the photo is too blurry or out of focus to show your license plate, or the plate is blocked by foliage, glare, or another vehicle, you can’t legally be fined. However, intentionally blocking your license plate is illegal and can get you into more trouble. If any of the criteria for issuing the ticket isn’t met, it must be withdrawn. 

What to Do if You Receive a Red Light Ticket

No matter how certain you may be that the car in the photo isn’t yours, you should never ignore a traffic ticket.

Unfortunately, when it comes to traffic violations, drivers are considered guilty until proven innocent, even if a clerical mistake has been made. Ignoring the ticket could end up costing you hundreds of dollars and possibly even result in jail time. 

It’s difficult to refute photographic evidence. If you know you were at fault, paying the fine may be the best course of action. You can get the point removed from your driving record by taking a traffic safety class.

Some judges are willing to dismiss a ticket if no one was harmed and the driver has a clean record and a good explanation for the mistake. When the photos from a red light camera don’t meet all the required standards, a driver can successfully argue misidentification.

Red light cameras are legal in California, but they aren’t completely without issue. Your best bet for avoiding red light tickets is to simply follow the rules of the road. Come to a complete stop at all red lights, and be on the lookout for traffic signs that forbid right turns on red.

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!