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Raleigh Puts Red-Light Cameras to Rest

Updated: Mar 16



As of March 1, 2024, Raleigh removed its red-light cameras and now discards any uncollected penalties.


Wilmington is the last remaining city in North Carolina to operate red-light cameras.


On page 14 of Raleigh's City Manager's memo, you will find the two reasons why Raleigh decided to shut down its Safelight program. 1) Third party litigation has brought down the cameras everywhere else in North Carolina, and 2) A bill has been introduced into the legislature that make "substantial changes to operational requirements that could prevent a RLC program from issuing enough citations to recover program costs." Here is the memo:


raleigh-city-managers-update-2024-08
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Both the litigation and the new legislation originated with me. However, be it known that I am a choir director. Without help from good singers in the choir, I would be directing nothing, I would be nothing, and Raleigh's cameras would still be up. At this point, let me rebut an assumption that some people make about me. After the Raleigh News and Observer published an article with my name in it, the driving-righteous have emailed me to accuse me of being a reckless scofflaw. That I am trying to vindicate my rampant red-light running. That I spray my license plates with camera-flash prevention paint. Know this: In my decades of driving, I never received a red light running ticket from a policeman. The nature of my two red-light camera tickets are an amusing story in themselves. I am in this game because I hate to see innocent people pickpocketed and maimed for engineering mistakes.


So, back to topic. What brought the cameras down in Raleigh is the new proposed legislation, not the litigation. Litigation never deterred Raleigh to terminate its program. The legislation, HB-198 Section 39a, is based in engineering. The NCDOT wrote it. The NCDOT! Not me. The legislation prevents red-light camera programs from punishing innocent drivers for math mistakes of traffic engineers. Its wording is brilliant from both an engineering and legal perspective. Its embedded truth is true even in the presence of continued physics errors in the yellow light calculation, which I will continue pursuing. I can tell you that the bill materialized over a biscuits and gravy breakfast I had with an NCDOT director.


 

Crucial Concept The public needs to understand this concept: The safe motion of traffic and the legal motion of traffic are different. The public assumes the two are equivalents. They are not. The city, red-light camera firms and auto insurance companies are happy to fortify the public's delusion. As long as you are willing to be deluded, the parties who profit from that delusion continue to defraud you. Remember when your mother told you, "You better listen up in algebra class. Someday you might need it."? That day is now. The truth is that traffic engineers have been making us run red lights via bad algebra. The bad algebra creates a dilemma zone; that is, a segment of roadway upstream from the intersection where we don't know whether to stop or go, or cannot stop or go lawfully. Most of our bad-algebra incursions into the red are imperceptible to the human eye. These incursions are safe incursions though technically unlawful.

And so in the spirit of making cities and red-light camera firms hold true to their gimmick of safety, the NCDOT changed the definition of a red-light camera violation. The new law makes Safelight only ticket unsafe drivers. The definition of a violation changed from, "when a driver enters the intersection on red" to "when a driver enters the intersection on red and after the all-red clearance is over." Without ticketing safe drivers caught in dilemma zones, there is no money in red-light cameras.


All-Red Clearance Interval


In the 1980s, traffic engineers shortened yellow lights by several seconds and added all-red clearance intervals. After the yellow is over, approaching cars from all directions see a red light for several seconds. This "all-red" clearance interval gives drivers still in the intersection time to clear the intersection. The intersection is safe during the all-red clearance interval. After the all-red is over, cross-traffic gets a green light. At that time, it is definitely unsafe to enter the intersection. The all-red clearance interval in North Carolina is usually at least 1.5 seconds. 1.5 seconds is long enough to cut red-light camera revenues by 85%.


In a rather elegant way, the NCDOT reunited legal motion with safe motion.


 

As a licensed professional engineer with a degree in physics, and as a person with a moral imperative, I am compelled to confront a math error that since 1965 has killed about 500,000 people, has maimed tens of millions of people, and has allowed cities to steal billions of dollars from millions of innocent drivers. I hate this stuff. ABC News interviewed me on the subject of misapplied physics and red-light running. This 3 minute news video is very good. And the NCDOT representative who agreed that the NCDOT misapplies the math, is the same person who wrote HB 198 Section 39a. https://abc11.com/yellow-lights-traffic-turns-straight/46296/


 

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