Special Report: Red Light Runners

How long has it been since you had a close call at an intersection? Every year in the U.S., nearly 1,000 people die in traffic accidents caused by drivers who run red lights. The City of Montgomery is fighting back by installing electronic red light cameras that catch motorists who don't obey the traffic signal. Nearly 3,000 people have been caught running red lights by the cameras in the last two months. Police say that number goes to show the cameras are needed.

Even if there's not a police officer in sight, if you run a red light in Montgomery, you might get caught and get a ticket!  There are ten cameras at seven intersections across Montgomery put in place to catch red light runners. Here's how it works. "If you're beyond the stop bar when the light turns red, it takes a picture," says Sgt. Brad Pemberton.

The camera system captures video and snaps three pictures: A view of the vehicle before it crosses the stop line, another that shows clearly if the driver ran the red light, and the last gives a close up shot of the license plate.  Sgt. Brad Pemberton and three other officers review all the video and pictures to decide if the driver actually ran the red light. It takes strong evidence for the officer to throw out the ticket. "I have to have a valid reason," says Pemberton.

Once the officer approves it, the ticket goes back to the company that runs the camera system which then mails it to the car's owner. "You get that $50 citation in the mail, it will grab your attention," said Michael Briddell, an executive assistant to the mayor.

Briddell says it's too early to tell if the cameras have reduced the number of red light unners. He says, "It takes about six months." But he says so far the numbers are falling.

Still even one red light runner can create a deadly situation. The video captured by the cameras shows some close calls. One clips shows the driver ran the light two seconds after it turned red. Pemberton says, "That's plenty of time for one of these cars to t-bone him."

Pemberton says there's no good excuse not to have the cameras. or for someone to run the light. The wait at a light may seem like a lifetime, but it could save one, too. Pemberton asks,"Even if you wait two minutes, is two minutes worth your life?"

Of the nearly 3,000 people who have gotten tickets, three appealed, only one oshowed up in court. He was able to prove he sold his car with the license plate on it. Since a police officer doesn't physically write the ticket, the offense does not show up on your driving record.

If you get a video-ticket in the mail, you can see the incriminating video evidence for yourself on the city's website at www.montgomeryal.gov.