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Red Light CAMERAS (Automated photo enforcement)

Red Light Cameras

The Red Light enforced intersections are marked with signs like these.

About the red Light camera program

In late July 2006, the City of Seattle initiated a 12-month pilot project designed to test the effectiveness of traffic safety cameras – also known as red light cameras – at selected arterial intersections. The purpose of the project was to gauge the extent to which these cameras might reduce the frequency of red light running and associated accidents, events which have become all too frequent in recent years, not only in Seattle but throughout the country.

Altogether, six camera systems were deployed at four intersections in the pilot project. After 12 months, through July 23, 2007, 16,539 citations had been issued. The Final Evaluation Report, summarizes the results of the pilot and evaluates the performance of the red light cameras and the City’s red light camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS) of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Based on the favorable findings of the pilot project, the City approved a significant expansion of the program in 2008 involving the addition of 24 new cameras at intersections throughout Seattle. Four factors were weighed in choosing locations for the new cameras: the number of right-angle crashes, the number of serious pedestrian injuries, the frequency of red light running based on video observation, and geographic distribution.

With the completion of construction in August 2010, the City now has 30 traffic safety cameras operating at 21 different arterials intersections. Through early May 2011, the City's red light cameras have captured more than 151,300 violations.


North Seattle
EB Roosevelt NE @ NE 45th
EB NW Market @ 15th NW*
WB NW Market @ 15th NW *
SB 15thNW @ NW 80th
SB Stone Way @ NW 40th
NB Aurora @ NW 85th
EB NE 80th @ 5th NE

Central Seattle
SB 6th @ James
EB 5th @ Spring
EB Denny @ Fairview
WB Denny @ Fairview
NB Broadway @ Olive
EB Olive @ Broadway
SB Broadway @ Pine*
SB Boren @ James
SB 23rd @ E John
NB 9th @ James

South Seattle
NB Rainier @ S Orcas
SB Rainier @ S Orcas
NB 14th S @ Cloverdale
EB Cloverdale @ 14th S
WB Avalon @ 35th SW
SB 35th SW @ SW Thistle
NB Rainier @ S Massachusetts
WB S McClellan @ MLK
SB MLK @ S McCellan
NB MLK@ S. McCellan

*Starred intersections were nominated by one or more members of the community.

Evaluation STUDIES have found

Red Light Running

There is evidence that the operation of red light cameras has reduced red light running on the order of 50% over the 12-month study period; however, progress has not been uniform, as violations declined sharply from late summer and early fall 2006 through January 2007, then recovered before beginning to level out in April and May and declining again through July.

Traffic Crashes

There is little evidence that cameras have decreased the frequency of all auto crashes or of the more dangerous angle collisions; however, it does appear that cameras may have mitigated the severity of crashes. There were fewer injury crashes and fewer persons injured in crashes at test intersections than before cameras were installed. Moreover, severity of crashes at a small number of “control” intersections not equipped with cameras showed an increase, as measured by the number of injury crashes and persons injured.

The pilot project evaluation team also has concluded that the American Traffic Solutions vendor has performed well at a reasonable cost, and the public, in general, has responded favorably to this program.

For details on the results of the program after two years, see the Year II Evaluation Report.

HOw do the cameras work?

The Axsis RLC-300 camera system used by American Traffic Solutions has three basic components: a high resolution camera for taking still color photos, a video camera that provides a broader view of the offending vehicle and any other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists in the intersection, and a vehicle sensing device that activates the still cameras and captures video of approaching vehicles that the system “predicts” will violate a red signal.

The stills show the vehicle behind the stop line with the traffic signal showing red in an “A” photo and the same vehicle fully beyond the stop line with the traffic signal still showing red in a “B” photo. These two photos, together with a cropped image of the vehicle license plate are included in the citation (also known as the notice of infraction, NOI) that is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. The still photos and video clip of the event are available to police reviewers, court personnel, and registered owners via secure ATS Internet Web site. All photos and video only show the vehicle from the rear, as Washington law prohibits taking images of the faces of vehicle driver or occupants.

Photographic and video images of violation events are sent electronically from the traffic safety camera system to the ATS data center where they are reviewed against criteria established by the Seattle Police Department. Events that clearly are not violations are rejected at the data center. Trained officers in the SPD Traffic Section, who authorize issuance of citations for those deemed in violation, review events that appear to meet SPD criteria. Pursuant to statute, this review and mailing of the NOI to the registered owner of the vehicle must all occur within 14 days of the violation event.

The registered owner then has 18 days from issuance of the NOI to either pay the monetary penalty specified in the City Ordinance (currently $124), contest the citation by requesting a Municipal Court hearing, or sign a declaration (affidavit) stating that he or she was not driving the vehicle at the time of the infraction (thereby canceling the citation). It is important to note that, by Washington law, the automated red light violation is treated as a parking infraction and is not part of the registered owner’s driving record under RCW 46.52.101 and RCW 46.52.120.

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Seattle, WA 98124-4986
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