Red Light Camera FAQ

This is an attempt to answer all questions regarding the red light cameras to be installed in Lakeland. Please check back as I will update it as needed. — Chuck Welch

Where applicable I will quote the ordinance or the contract between ATS and the city. Subsections will be in italics.

How much will the citations cost? “A violation of this Article is a civil, noncriminal infraction. A civil fine in the amount of $125.00 shall be assessed for the first two (2) violations of this Article and a civil fine in the amount of $250.00 shall be assessed for the third and any subsequent violations by the owner within any five (5) year period.” — Sec 98-9a (a)

“Civil, noncriminal infraction” means you don’t have to worry that your insurance company or the state will be notified of the violation. But your third violation in any five year period is going to cost you $250 instead of the usual $125.

How do the cameras work? They are actually video cameras. Each camera will operate 24 hours a day and be trained on one part of an intersection. Software predicts that a vehicle will run a red light based on speed and amber light time remaining. If the vehicle continues into the intersection after the light has turned red, the video of the the incident is flagged along with still shots of the vehicle’s rear license plate. According to ATS, their software is written to remove those incidents where the vehicle simply stops past the solid white line that drivers are expected to be behind at a red light.

Isn’t videotaping a violation of my privacy? A good philosophical question, but not a good legal one. Under current law, no one has an expectation of privacy in a public place. That’s why news organizations can take your picture at any public property rally.

Why videotape 24 hours a day and seven days a week? Commissioner Justin Troller asked the same question. The short answer, because that is what ATS usually does. The cameras can be set to stop and start, but commissioners saw no reason to do so. Keeping all video stored makes it easier to prove if violations were the result of external circumstances such as fire trucks police officers on a call. The ATS representative also pointed out that video of non-infraction time has been used to solve crimes. Evidently law enforcement officers were able to check the video to note the location of cars after a crime was committed near the intersection.

The short answer: because the software can operate that way and the commissioners saw no good reason not to let the cameras run 24/7.

How much will it cost the city to install the cameras? $0 according to the contract. ATS will install and maintain the cameras for free. They’ll get their money back from the fines. That’s explained below.

Will there be warning signs at red light camera intersections? “Customer will design, fabricate, install and maintain red light camera warning signs. If Customer cannot provide such signage, ATS will do so and charge the costs to the client.” (2.3.2 of the ATS Scope of Work contract) According to Assistant City Attorney Palmer Davis, the city traffic operations will design, build, install and maintain red light camera warning signs.

What else will the city have to pay for? Running additional conduit or electric (2.3.4) ATS VP Greg Parks says “that should be zero (dollars)” as ATS can usually hook in to existing electric at the locations.

If the Customer chooses to move a Camera System to a new approach after initial installation, it shall pay the costs to relocate the System. (2.3.1) Parks said ATS usually recommends the city not move cameras, but instead install additional ones. The older cameras are left in place to maintain driver behavior.

Any potential, one time, direct costs to ATS to develop an interface between the Court system will be initially paid by ATS and any such costs will be reimbursed to ATS from collected revenues in addition to its normal fees. (2.5.7) Parks said that this is only if the Court doesn’t use the usual ATS software which is provided for free.

If the city or its agents damage an ATS camera or sensor (1.3.10)

How much does the City get from each violation? It’s been reported “The contract calls for ATS to get all the money for the first paid citation for each camera each day. The company will take $25 from each citation for the second and third paid violation, per camera per day. ATS will get $10 for the fourth and all subsequent paid tickets on a per-camera, per-day basis, with the city collecting the rest.” (Ledger)

You might get the idea that if a camera records no red light violations on a given day than ATS gets nothing for that camera that day. However, the Service Fee Schedule of the contract states “Fee structure for program is averaged across all operational cameras.” That means the number of cameras installed helps decide how much goes to ATS and how much to the city. The city has negotiated a three tier pricing structure:

$125 -1st Tier Fee (First paid notice per day per camera)
$ 25 -2nd Tier Fee (Next 2 paid notices per day per camera)
$ 10 -3rd Tier Fee (Additional paid notices per day per camera)

This section UPDATED: JUNE 2, 2009

In plain language, this is how the tier system will work (assuming all citations are 1st or 2nd citations:

ATS will receive $125 for the 1st nine citations each day (Tier 1)
ATS will receive $25 for each of the next 18 citations. Lakeland will receive $100 per those citations. (Tier 2)
ATS will receive $10 for each of the remaining citations for that day. Lakeland will receive $115 for those citations. (Tier 3)

Let’s look at 2 scenarios:

On Sunday, the nine cameras record 42 violations:

ATS will receive (9 * $125) + (18 * $25) + (15 * $10) for a total of $1725

Lakeland will receive (0 * $125) + (18 * $100) + (15 * $115) for a total of $3525

On Monday, the nine cameras record 12 violations:

ATS will receive (9 * $125) + (3 * $25) + (0 * $10) for a total of $1425

Lakeland will receive (0 * $125) + (3 * $100) + (0 * $115) for a total of $300

In other words, each day the city of Lakeland needs more than nine violations to receive any funds.

Will the city decrease yellow light time to increase red light violations? There is nothing in the contract or ordinance that forbids this, but Lakeland Traffic Operations has stated the city follows all state laws when setting amber or red timing. The city also does not control the amber or red timing for any state maintained traffic signals.

14 thoughts on “Red Light Camera FAQ

  1. This seems like an aniquated system when all it does is take a still shot of the license plate of the car supposedly running the red light. Other states at least have a still shot of the driver plus the license plate so as to make sure the person responsible for the red light violation gets the citation. How will this citation work if the driver is not the owner of the car?? How about rental vehicles and the discrepancies involved there?? How about out of state drivers and the plan to collect from them. Seeing it is not a traffic ticket and only a violation of a city ordinance what legal grounds is there in collecting these citations?? Safety is not the high issue here because if safety were the top priority there are many other ways to control red light running and all the cities have to do is go the Floida DOT web site and see the recommendations they suggest. This is nothing but a cash cow for the cities. Will it work, probably short time it will then once these companies see their cash flow decearsing they will pull these cameras faster then you can run a red light.

  2. This seems like an aniquated system when all it does is take a still shot of the license plate of the car supposedly running the red light. Other states at least have a still shot of the driver plus the license plate so as to make sure the person responsible for the red light violation gets the citation. How will this citation work if the driver is not the owner of the car?? How about rental vehicles and the discrepancies involved there?? How about out of state drivers and the plan to collect from them. Seeing it is not a traffic ticket and only a violation of a city ordinance what legal grounds is there in collecting these citations?? Safety is not the high issue here because if safety were the top priority there are many other ways to control red light running and all the cities have to do is go the Floida DOT web site and see the recommendations they suggest. This is nothing but a cash cow for the cities. Will it work, probably short time it will then once these companies see their cash flow decearsing they will pull these cameras faster then you can run a red light.

  3. In Middle Tennessee where red light cameras have been working for a couple of years, it is putting a lot of money in the cities bank account.  It didnt at first but the last year it has put hundreds of thousands of dollars in the city bank account.  Now they are extending the cameras to include radar so the traffic police can spent more time on their cell phones and at the coffee shops. It is a total ripoff.

  4. In Middle Tennessee where red light cameras have been working for a couple of years, it is putting a lot of money in the cities bank account.  It didnt at first but the last year it has put hundreds of thousands of dollars in the city bank account.  Now they are extending the cameras to include radar so the traffic police can spent more time on their cell phones and at the coffee shops. It is a total ripoff.

  5. Pingback: Red Light Camera Money Matters | Lakeland Local

  6. So say I don’t pay my fine for running a red light. Will the city have the same right to assigning points and then possibly revoking my license as a police officer’s citation would?

    And what recourse do citizens have to protest? For instance, I once ran a red light at Florida and U.S. 92. I had no intention to, but traffic was moving and in front of me was a big 18-wheeler truck. I followed him through the intersection, glancing up to see that I had just clear run the red light because I hadn’t been able to see it. By the time I did see the red, I felt guilty but couldn’t stop my car in the middle of the road. Now, I am much more careful about this now, but I would have been ticketed that first time.

    There have also been times when I’ve seen a yellow light and then decided not to go through. I have used my brakes, but went over the white line. I then back up my car. Will I be charged? Should I just blow through that light anyway since I’ll be charged for it either way?

    This is a very frustrating system. I hope they keep those tapes for a while, and I also hope the definition of running a red light are defined better for citizens.

  7. So say I don’t pay my fine for running a red light. Will the city have the same right to assigning points and then possibly revoking my license as a police officer’s citation would?

    And what recourse do citizens have to protest? For instance, I once ran a red light at Florida and U.S. 92. I had no intention to, but traffic was moving and in front of me was a big 18-wheeler truck. I followed him through the intersection, glancing up to see that I had just clear run the red light because I hadn’t been able to see it. By the time I did see the red, I felt guilty but couldn’t stop my car in the middle of the road. Now, I am much more careful about this now, but I would have been ticketed that first time.

    There have also been times when I’ve seen a yellow light and then decided not to go through. I have used my brakes, but went over the white line. I then back up my car. Will I be charged? Should I just blow through that light anyway since I’ll be charged for it either way?

    This is a very frustrating system. I hope they keep those tapes for a while, and I also hope the definition of running a red light are defined better for citizens.

  8. If a company truck is driven, who pays the fine? If a city vehicle is driven, who gets the citation?

    Will police officers not responding to calls be cited?

  9. If a company truck is driven, who pays the fine? If a city vehicle is driven, who gets the citation?

    Will police officers not responding to calls be cited?

  10. I got caught by the camera at N. Socrum Loop Rd. and Old Combee Rd – at the Publix. I was going north on N. Socrum Loop Rd. in the right lane about 4:45 PM at 27 MPH when the light turned yellow just as I hit the first crosswalk – there was no way I could stop, so I was “framed” in the middle of the intersection. This cost me $158.00

    Every time I approach this light it stays green until I get to within about 30 feet – then yellow! There is a long approach to this light and you can see it stays green as I travel the almost 1 mile to it’s location. Green. Green. Green. Soon as I get there.. YELLOW!!

    This occurs every time I pass this way.. every Wednesday on the way to church. Same time. Same red light camera ‘rigged’ to display a yellow light at the last second.

    I’ve become so gun-shy of this light, I’ve taken to stopping at the light even if it happens to be green, turning right, cutting through the Publix lot to the next light, stopping at that light, turning right to proceed on my way north up N. Socrum Loop Rd.

    This is the only way I can avoid being “trapped” by, what I feel is, a “rigged” yellow signal.

    The red light camera at N. Florida Ave. and Memorial Blvd – northbound – was rated as the highest income producing red light camera in Polk County, and now they’re going to install another one on the southbound side! I’m guessing the northbound camera’s had the effect of reducing incidents and the southbound camera is needed to generate new income to make up for this.

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