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Camera Radar Enforcement / Red Light Cameras

Tool Snapshot: Camera Radar Enforcement / Red Light Cameras

  • Mobile cameras connected to speed measuring devices or to red lights record violations and citations can be issued.


  • Flexible, does not require presence of officer.
  • An effective deterrent as would-be offenders do not know when camera is operating.
  • An effective part of an overall traffic safety program.


  • Does not replace traditional approach to traffic enforcement.
  • Equipment costs.
  • Requires public and political support to be effective.
  • Can lead to reaction without effective public education efforts.
  • Requires input from a variety of sources, such as courts, prosecutors and community groups, for maximum effectiveness.

Automated photo speed enforcement takes a real-time photo of traffic to record vehicle speeds and behaviors. It can be used to document speeders and those who drive dangerously through crosswalks. Automated photo speed enforcement (photo radar) is just one of many tools law enforcement has to influence driver behavior and reduce vehicle speed. Photo radar systems typically operate on set speed thresholds (e.g., 11 mph or more over the posted speed limit) only capturing images of motor vehicles moving at or above the established threshold. When a violation occurs, the system captures speed data, as well as images of the motor vehicle (and in some systems the driver) at the time of the violation. Citations are typically issued through the mail to the registered owner of the vehicle after a review of the vehicle and registration information is completed.

Seattle currently has a red-light camera program in place that has been effective at reducing speeds and raising awareness about the potential consequences of red-light running among drivers.  In several evaluations nationwide, the presence of photo enforcement at intersections has resulted in fewer drivers running red lights and a decline in collisions. Soon after a camera radar enforcement system was used in Fort Collins, Colorado, overall compliance to the speed limit rose from 17 percent to 38 percent. In some jurisdictions, the relatively inexpensive protective boxes in which speed cameras are placed are mounted in many locations, leaving drivers uncertain as to which boxes actually contain cameras at any particular time.

As controversial as camera radar enforcement has been, there is no doubt that it has raised the awareness about speeding and its consequences. To make camera radar enforcement more acceptable to the public and elected officials, the speed limits must be reasonable and well-signed. The community must understand that the goal of this enforcement tool is to improve safety and not to spy or generate revenue. Click here for more information.

Camera Enforcement

Photos from West Seattle Blog (top) and Komo News (bottom)


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