6/13/2007Texas Red Light Camera Offenses Require Imagination
Red light cameras in Texas are ticketing motorists who had legally entered intersections.
The red light camera programs throughout Texas have opened themselves up to a significant new legal challenge. KTVT-TV reports that the Garland, Texas has essentially made up its own definition of red light running to ticket motorists who have not violated the law. Since Garland was one of the first cities to adopt red light cameras, its ordinance served as a model for the rest of the state. Most other cities use Garland's definition of red light running.
According to Garland's ordinance, a ticket will be issued "if the vehicle proceeds into an intersection at a system location when the traffic control signal for that vehicle's direction of travel is emitting a steady red signal." Garland defines entering the intersection as crossing an imaginary line that runs between the end points of the curb drawn parallel to the crosswalk. At one Garland intersection, the imaginary line would be ten feet beyond the painted stop bar.
According to Texas law, a motorist must stop "at a clearly marked stop line" when the red light is displayed. If the vehicle passes this physical line while the light is yellow or green, the driver may cautiously continue through the intersection. By creating an imaginary, unmarked stop line, Garland has given itself another ten feet in which it can ticket drivers.
About 80 percent of red light camera tickets issued nationwide are mailed to the owners of vehicles that entered an intersection less than one second after the light turned red. For most cities, the majority of citations are issued as little as 0.1 seconds after the light turns red. By changing the definition of the stop bar, Garland has, in effect, allowed itself to ticket drivers 0.2 seconds earlier (at 35 MPH) than state law would permit. Motorists whose tickets show a very low "late time" or "time into red" may now be able to mount a legal challenge.
Farmers Branch motorist Noel Hillis showed KTVT a $175 refund check he received when he filed a municipal court appeal of a Garland hearing officer's ruling. The red light camera photo showed that Hillis was beyond the stop bar when the light turned red.
Texas Transportation CodeSource: How Do You Know When Youve Run A Red Light? (KTVT-TV (TX), 6/12/2007)
§ 544.007. TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL.
(a) A traffic-control signal displaying different colored lights or colored lighted arrows successively or in combination may display only green, yellow, or red and applies to operators of vehicles as provided by this section.
(b) An operator of a vehicle facing a circular green signal may proceed straight or turn right or left unless a sign prohibits the turn. The operator shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk when the signal is exhibited.
(c) An operator of a vehicle facing a green arrow signal, displayed alone or with another signal, may cautiously enter the intersection to move in the direction permitted by the arrow or other indication shown simultaneously. The operator shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection.
(d) An operator of a vehicle facing only a steady red signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. A vehicle that is not turning shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown. After stopping, standing until the intersection may be entered safely, and yielding right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection, the operator may:
(1) turn right; or
(2) turn left, if the intersecting streets are both one-way streets and a left turn is permissible.
(e) An operator of a vehicle facing a steady yellow signal is warned by that signal that:
(1) movement authorized by a green signal is being terminated; or
(2) a red signal is to be given.
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