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Albemarle County Newsroom

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County Launches PhotoSafe Program to Improve Traffic Safety
9/23/2010

System to become operational in early October with a 30-day warning period

Albemarle County is announcing the launch of its PhotoSafe program, a photo-based traffic safety system to monitor red light runners at dangerous intersections in the County.   Cameras will soon be installed at the intersection of Route 29 North and Rio Road as the first Photosafe location in the County.

Each year, nearly 1,000 fatalities in the United States are the direct result of red light running. This is a serious problem in Albemarle County as well.  During the three year period of January 2006 to January 2009 there have been 177 crashes at the Route 29/Rio Road intersection alone, 22 of which were attributable to red light running.   Across the nation communities are reducing the number of deaths and injuries from red light offenses by 20 to 50% by installing red light cameras.

“Red light accidents are typically side-impact crashes, causing the most severe damages and fatalities.  By working closely with our camera system provider and the Virginia Department of Transportation, we’ve identified critical intersections where red light running and accidents are of major concern to public safety,” said Albemarle County Police Chief John Miller in announcing the program.  “With the PhotoSafe system in place, we expect to see a significant reduction in red-light-related crashes and violations at selected intersections.”

Highlights of the PhotoSafe Program:

  • only vehicles that enter the intersection after the light turns red will trigger the camera system
  • no photos will be taken of the inside of the vehicle or of any vehicle occupants
  • there is a $50.00 civil fine for each photo enforced red light running violation
  • the operator of the vehicle is liable for the fine
  • violators have an opportunity to view their violation online

Camera installation will be underway in several days and the system is expected to become operational on October 11 with a 30 day warning period during which time enforcement notices will be mailed to violators but no fine will be assessed so that people have time to become aware of the PhotoSafe program.  The system is expected to go live with actual enforcement and fines beginning on November 11.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance last year regarding the PhotoSafe program, and the County was authorized to place cameras at up to nine intersections based on the state standard of one intersection per 10,000 residents.  Since that time, county police and other staff have been working closely with VDOT to establish the program and to select the intersections that meet the state’s standards for permitting red light camera enforcement.  VDOT officials have approved the County’s program and have issued permits for installation of the camera system at the Route 29 North and Rio Road intersection based on the significant number of red light running violations and crashes that have occurred at that location.  Other intersection locations will be considered in the future.

Complete information about PhotoSafe, including a program overview, Frequently Asked Questions and a 90 second animated video which shows the system in action, is available on the County website at www.albemarle.org/photosafe.

How Does It Work?
Signs are located within 500 feet of each photo enforcement intersection in an effort to remind motorists to comply with the traffic signal laws. The camera system is constantly in operation but will only trigger when a violation occurs during the red light cycle.  The system is wired to the traffic lights and to sensors that are buried in the roadway. Vehicles that cross the sensors after the signal has turned red for one half a second are in violation and activate the camera system.  Each vehicle that is in violation is photographed 3 times and a 12-second video is also produced documenting the violation.

  • The first photo is taken at the stop bar as evidence to show that the light was red prior to the vehicle entering the intersection
  • The second photo is the vehicle’s license plate for identification purposes
  • The third photo is taken to show evidence of the vehicle proceeding through the intersection while the light is still red.

The photographed documentation of the red light violation is evidence for the police department to issue a civil penalty to the owner of the vehicle.

What is the Penalty?
There is a $50.00 civil fine for each photo enforced red light running violation. No court costs are associated with the fine and there are no driver license points assessed and no insurance implications for a violation. By law, the Department of Motor Vehicles and insurance companies cannot be notified of the offense. This violation does not affect drivers that are on probation with the court or with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Who Is Responsible?
The operator of the vehicle is liable for the fine. The video and photographed evidence of the red light violation will be available for review and inspection by the registered owner or driver of the vehicle.


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