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Lights, Camera, Ticket! Drivers Divided On Red-Light Recordings

Question: As I was driving in San Bernardino, I approached an intersection that I knew had traffic cameras to catch red-light runners, so I stopped and I made my right turn a few seconds after the light turned red.

Imagine my surprise when the cameras started flashing. I'm sure it was my car they were photographing.

Did I break any laws by coming to a complete stop before turning right on a red light? How does the camera know whether I stopped or not? Is there a time limit before I can enter the intersection for a right turn on a red light? - Valerie Fields

Answer: New intersection camera technology, combined with buried magnetic induction loops under the road, make it possible for the camera to record if your vehicle came to a full stop, or simply slowed as you were turning. While there is no set amount of time that you are required to wait before you proceed, if you roll through a red light and do not make a complete stop, the cameras will get you.

I know that you think you came to a complete stop, Valerie, so you have a right to ask to view the photographic evidence to see if it supports your opinion.

Reader opinion: I think red-light cameras are an important tool. If I pulled out in the intersection with my family in the car and someone ran a red light, I'm sure I wouldn't like it. It is an issue of safety. - Steve Brummett, Corona

Question: I received a photo-enforced traffic citation for supposedly running a red light. Have the cameras been deemed unconstitutional yet? - Nancy Castillo

Answer: Many have tried to argue the unconstitutionality of traffic citations that have been handed out by what they perceive as Big Brother on a pole, Nancy.

Opponents have argued that those cited do not have the ability to confront and cross-examine adversarial witnesses, that the evidence was created by a mechanical device that could be manipulated and that often functions without scientific reliability, and that the use of cameras constitutes an improper delegation of police powers.

Thus far, none of these arguments has had a significant impact on the continued implementation of the devices.

Question: A new red-light camera was installed by my home, so now it's getting personal. How long is a light supposed to remain yellow before it turns red? What is the time delay between a red-light camera snapping your picture for a violation and the ticket coming in the mail? - Jerry Sachs, San Bernardino

Answer: According to Caltrans, a light must be yellow for a minimum of three seconds before turning red. In most California jurisdictions, you will receive the citation in the mail within 15 calendar days.

Reader opinion: I think that intersection cameras are unnecessary and that they are more of a political move to make money for the city. - Victor Valadez, Norco.