Did a red light camera just bust me?
May 3, 2007 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I may have run a red light, and there may have been a camera posted by said light. This was in Burlington, Massachusetts. Can anyone please help me figure out if this was really a red light camera, and, if so, what's going to happen next?

First off, I admit that I did a really, really stupid thing and that if I get a ticket, it won't be undeserved. But that doesn't mean I actually want to get a ticket.

Near the Lahey Clinic Hospital in Burlington, MA, most of the traffic lights on that road have what seem to be cameras mounted on the lights. However, I'm unclear if Burlington, MA actually uses red light cameras because I have heard a lot of different information (e.g. that a sign must be posted to let people know that the intersection is being filmed). It's also been suggested to me that these might not be cameras to catch red-light runners, but rather that they might have to do with emergency vehicles, since it's right near a hospital.

That said, they really look like cameras (this is a little different but similar).

I also didn't just "sort of" run the light, just missing a yellow, or something. No, this was really bad ... I was in the middle lane, and the lane to my left was a left turn only lane. I guess I was not really in my right mind, because when the left turn arrow went green, I somehow interpreted that as being a green light, and just went straight through the intersection. I'm totally embarrassed and ashamed and just feel like a total moron. Before today I have never to my knowledge done something like this, have never had a ticket before, and my only accident was completely at the fault of the other person.

So... (1) Is it likely that it was a red light camera? (2) If so, does anyone know how much my ticket will be? (3) How long does it take to get a ticket from one of these cameras?

Also, my inspection sticker is expired (and I was already going to get a new one TOMORROW, grr!) so I'm wondering if it is going to get caught on camera and make my ticket even more expensive.
posted by tastybrains to Law & Government (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
we have these in dc. they take pictures from the back though, isn't your inspection sticker in front?

here at least, you dont get points on your insurance, they cant prove who was driving. so its just a fine.
posted by jare2003 at 4:47 PM on May 3, 2007


Relax, you'll know in a few days when/if it gets mailed to you. One surefire way to tell, is if the camera flashed (here, at any rate). But then, they're not always on, either.
posted by IronLizard at 4:52 PM on May 3, 2007


You may want to consider that the cameras, even if they were at this intersection, aren't designed to catch this type of thing. From your description, you moved through when you weren't supposed to, but the lane to your left was supposed to.

So, the system obviously isn't going to trigger on any movement in the intersection. Limiting it to trigger on movement in a particular lane would be tricky. You were in the front of your lane and the cars behind you didn't move much.

As far as I know, these systems are designed to trigger when, for example, you fly through a red light at night. Your car passing over the loop indicates that someone is in your lane, and then the loop is deactivated when you leave it and move through the intersection. Or, you'd base it on speed. You didn't speed through the lane.

Anyway, that's a whole lot of conjecture and "what-if", but it might help ease your mind a bit.

You could always just call the police in that area and ask them about the intersection.
posted by odinsdream at 4:56 PM on May 3, 2007


What you're describing is not a red-light camera, but one to detect motion at the intersection so that it may actively manage traffic flow.
posted by geoff. at 4:58 PM on May 3, 2007


Around here, we have signal preemption which are mounted on the traffic lights. They look more or less like the image on this page. Is that what you saw?

Otherwise, yeah, if you get a ticket...
posted by niles at 5:03 PM on May 3, 2007


There is also the possibility that it wasn't a camera. Instead, there are gadgets that change the lights for emergency vehicles. They can sometimes look like cameras.
posted by IronLizard at 5:05 PM on May 3, 2007


Err, or what niles said.
posted by IronLizard at 5:05 PM on May 3, 2007


No, sorry. Should have looked at the picture first. It's most definitely a red light camera.
posted by IronLizard at 5:12 PM on May 3, 2007


Around here, we have signal preemption which are mounted on the traffic lights. They look more or less like the image on this page. Is that what you saw?

That is most definitely not what I saw.

Dammit. :-(

Anyone know how much a red light costs these days?
posted by tastybrains at 5:23 PM on May 3, 2007


As far as I know Burlington does not have cameras. But in any case the ticket is not really enforceable. Who says you were driving? Insurance companies don't add points for camera tickets, and most judges will dismiss them.
posted by Gungho at 5:24 PM on May 3, 2007


I second odinsdream...every red light camera I've ever seen will snap a few shots (generally with flash, BTW) just after a light turns red, in order to catch folks who try to beat yellow lights.
posted by nevercalm at 5:26 PM on May 3, 2007


THe picture you linked to is NOT A RED-LIGHT CAMERA. It detects traffic and regulates the lights. Red light camera's are directly mounted over the light and you will usually see a flash go off (unless you were totally not paying attention). I recently ran a light too (two lights really close to each other and I just couldn't tell till it was too late). The same camera was there but not a red-light camera. It's been over a month & no ticket in the mail. phew!

There's not much you can do now. So just put this out of your mind for the time being. If a ticket shows up, research how you can talk it down. If not, crack open a nice beverage and celebrate!
posted by special-k at 5:36 PM on May 3, 2007


THe picture you linked to is NOT A RED-LIGHT CAMERA.

If it were here, it would most certainly be a red light camera. This is exactly what they all look like in my city and they're usually posted far off to the side of the lights (like right on the light poles), not dead center.
posted by IronLizard at 5:46 PM on May 3, 2007


While driving a car in Washington DC that was licensed to my parents who lived halfway across the country, I ran a yellow light (because yellow means hurry up, right?) that proved to be red by the picture taken and sent to my parents 6 months later. The license plate and the light (red) were very clear but there would definitely be no way to see an inspection sticker. Don't worry in that regard. My parents told me about it, I sent them a check and we all went on our way. It may have cost me $25 but then again it may have cost me $60, 'fraid to say I don't remember. It's not really worth agonizing over.

I don't know the specifics in Burlington, MA, but I really would not worry too much. It was worth it to me to just pay the fine and not have to deal with it further.
posted by bobobox at 5:54 PM on May 3, 2007


typically red light cameras are only on right after the light turns red.

Your error was so flagrant it was likely outside the parameters for wich the camera is set to operate.
posted by Megafly at 5:55 PM on May 3, 2007


Dude, it's cool. If you get a ticket you pay the money and that's it. You won't be thrown in jail or anything.

It's your first offense, so it looks like you'll get off easy if I'm reading the MA DMV website right. Here it says you don't get any points to your license for your first minor moving traffic offense. Your ticket will probably be $100 (see here).

Calm. I've went through a red-light cameras (albiet in MD) once and nothing happened.
posted by schroedinger at 6:00 PM on May 3, 2007


In California, the law requires that a sign be posted X feet before an intersection that has a red light camera. There are a bunch of websites out there to help you beat the tickets (and learn the law).
posted by gramcracker at 6:30 PM on May 3, 2007


Went through a light late in the yellow cycle in NYC. 79th and York. One week later there was a bill in the mail with a picture of my car and the light. Oops. I am a NY resident. I paid a fine. No points, no insurance change, no nothing other than the $ for the fine.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:42 PM on May 3, 2007


Where I'm from, cameras that look like that are for monitoring traffic, not for catching people that run the lights. I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by almostmanda at 7:27 PM on May 3, 2007


There are (apparently) no red-light cameras in Massachusetts. If you watch WBZ's 11 o'clock news broadcast on Channel 4 in about 13 minutes, you'll see a report about it.
posted by cribcage at 7:47 PM on May 3, 2007


Well, Burlington does have real-time traffic cameras. For what it's worth, I drive a 30 mile stretch of 128 everyday, twice a day -- everytime I've seen those cameras, they've correlated to traffic camera streams on Boston.com or smartraveler.com.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:56 PM on May 3, 2007


Quoting from WBZ correspondent Joe Shortsleeve's report, which just aired:
"The only place in New England using the cameras is Providence. ...why are there no red-light cameras in Massachusetts? Because state regulations require an insurance surcharge if you run a red light, but most communities want to issue a simple ticket without the surcharge. A bill has been filed to allow for the ticketing system, but so far it hasn't passed."
Apparently the town of Blackstone is working on a system that includes the surcharge, which may be implemented this summer.
posted by cribcage at 8:20 PM on May 3, 2007


Good ol' screwed up Massachusetts insurance regulations save the day.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:49 PM on May 3, 2007


I'm in Australia so I can't comment on whether it was a red light camera or not, but I know that over here, a lot of the red light cameras are frequently out of film anyway! I don't know why they don't use digital, but it has certainly been to the advantage of many an errant driver.
posted by indienial at 9:02 PM on May 3, 2007


In California, the red light cameras are HUGE, with HUGE *obvious* flash units like this, since they're designed to work at night as well as during the day. Like gramcracker says, there're also signs posted at the intersection. I'm no expert, but the camera you linked to definitely just looks like the kind of cameras used to just monitor traffic, not to catch...err...red-light-runners.

Argh...then again...after doing some quick googling...maybe it *was* a red light camera...sorry...
posted by edjusted at 10:05 PM on May 3, 2007


for what it's worth, here's a front view of what the cameras in Southern California looks like.
posted by edjusted at 10:09 PM on May 3, 2007


"why are there no red-light cameras in Massachusetts? Because state regulations require an insurance surcharge if you run a red light, but most communities want to issue a simple ticket without the surcharge."

Translation: Why are there no red-light cameras in Massachusetts? Because the state requires communities to actually punish you if you run a red light, but the towns just want your money and none of the paperwork.

Sad. (I grew up in MA, so I can make fun of the state.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:21 PM on May 3, 2007


Anecdotal, to defray some of the inaccuracies here in this thread:

Red-light cameras do not have to be mounted on the light at all. Ours are sitting quietly on their own mount next to the traffic light pole. They are large, beige boxes, with a separate flash and camera system. They shoot you from the front AND rear, and at night, have a VERY BRIGHT flash.

(We also have speed cameras on our freeway, one of the first cities to do this.)

Meanwhile, I think odinsdream has this spot on. Short story is: if there is legitimate traffic in the intersection, then the cameras will not be active, period. They're in fact DEACTIVATED because they KNOW someone is in the intersection. While traffic regulation cameras are in place, it's my understanding that red light cameras are only activated to take the photo, and are activated by a metal detection system. Thus, the camera isn't watching you and parsing your activities as illegal.
posted by disillusioned at 2:52 AM on May 4, 2007


Well, Burlington does have real-time traffic cameras. For what it's worth, I drive a 30 mile stretch of 128 everyday, twice a day -- everytime I've seen those cameras, they've correlated to traffic camera streams on Boston.com or smartraveler.com.

Well, this is different from the Rt 128 cam, as this was just on Mall Road, which can get busy but it's certainly not a highway. The cameras are mounted over the lights but there are no signs posted about red light cams.

Thank you to those of you who confirmed MA doesn't have red light cameras. If this turns out to be true, I will be very happy.
posted by tastybrains at 6:36 AM on May 4, 2007


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