Drivers are not getting a ticket every time the red light cameras flash in Philadelphia.
Around 50 percent of the photos taken by Philadelphia’s 108 red light cameras are tossed out, according to data provided by consultants for the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The agency did not have exact percentages available.
The camera system, run by American Traffic Solutions (ATS), works like this: sensors embedded in the ground tell the camera to snap a photo. Each time the red light cameras fire, two photos are taken. The first when a vehicle crosses over the intersection’s stop line. The second photo is shot soon after – meant to catch the same vehicle traveling through the intersection, according to an instructional video about the cameras.
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The Philadelphia Parking Authority cites several major reasons why citations are not issued. Sometimes the cameras are triggered accidentally even though the vehicle stopped before the intersection's white line.
Photos also get tossed when a driver starts moving through an intersection, but then stops, as long as the photos show the vehicle's brake lights, according to the PPA.
Other reasons tickets don't get issued include: people traveling in funeral processions, emergency vehicles and drivers who are making turns into an intersection, but stop at the red light.
After photos are taken, they’re sent to the PPA for review by a staffer. The PPA says photos that meet the ticketing criteria are then sent to a Philadelphia Police officer for verification. Tickets carrying a fine of $100 are then issued if the officer confirms the findings.
The high-forgiveness rate isn’t unique to Philadelphia. Charles Callari, vice president for ATS, testified that about 50-percent of pictures taken at New Jersey intersections don’t result in summonses. ATS installed and runs the Philadelphia red light camera program.
The testimony was given during a court proceeding for a lawsuit filed in the state. The suit claimed the cameras didn’t follow requirements for yellow light timing, which did not give drivers enough time to stop. In a settlement reached Wednesday, ATS agreed to set up a $4.2 million fund, without admitting wrongdoing.
Red light cameras are installed at 24 intersections in the city of Philadelphia, including nine along the Roosevelt Boulevard and five along Broad Street.
Nearly 132,000 citations were issued during the 2012 fiscal year, which stretches from April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012. Those citations resulted in more than $10 million in revenue, according to the PPA’s red light camera annual report.