City of Alexandria Photo Safety Program
On July 1, 2011, the Alexandria Police Department formally began the Photo Safety Program to help reduce red-light violations and crashes throughout the City. Photo enforcement cameras will capture still images and video of red-light violators. Civil penalties will be imposed for all violation notices that are issued. The City allowed a 31-day warning period from July 1 to July 31. During this warning period, a warning notice was issued to the vehicle’s registered owner for any violations but no civil penalty was assessed. As of August 1, 2011, a civil penalty will be imposed for every violation notice that is issued.
The photo-enforcement cameras are located at three intersections:
• South Patrick Street and Franklin Street
• South Patrick Street and Gibbon Street
• Duke Street and Walker Street
Cameras will operate 24 hours a day and will capture images and video of every vehicle disregarding the traffic signals at those intersections. Warning signs alerting drivers to the red-light cameras were installed prior to the warning period.
The Alexandria Police Department’s program is administered by REDFLEX Traffic Systems (http://www.redflex.com). Each violation is reviewed and approved by a sworn law enforcement officer in the Alexandria Police Department prior to being issued.
The key to our Photo Safety Program’s success is safety, education, prevention and public knowledge of the system’s existence. The enforcement process is designed to assure all motorists using Alexandria streets that if you run a red light, your vehicle will be photographed and you will receive a civil penalty for the violation.
The following information is provided for your assistance:
To speak to an Alexandria Police Officer regarding a red light camera violation contact the Photo Safety Hotline at 703.746.1900 or by email @PhotoSafetyProgram@alexandriava.gov.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Why has Alexandria chosen to implement the Photo Safety Program?
A: Intersections with heavy traffic flow or congestion can be prone to crashes caused by motorists who disregard red traffic signals. Often, the design of these intersections makes it impossible to place a Police Department vehicle in a position to monitor the intersection without impeding the flow of traffic. In order to increase safety for everyone, the City has decided to use the Photo Safety Program to assist in the enforcement of traffic safety rules. This type of program has been proven to prevent and reduce personal injuries and property damage due to motorists disregarding red traffic signals. We have chosen to implement this program to make our streets safer for all who utilize them.
Q: Do red light running cameras really reduce crashes at intersections?
A: Red Light Photo Enforcement reduces crashes at monitored intersections by approximately 40%. The signage and technology tends to produce generalized changes in driver behavior, so violations and crashes decline throughout the area where cameras are used, not just at the specific intersections equipped with cameras. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; IIHS, 2002)
Q: Why doesn't the Police Department use existing personnel for this enforcement?
A: Over the past two years, Alexandria police officers have issued 1188 traffic summonses for red light violations in our City. These cameras act as a force multiplier for the Police Department. The cameras will contribute to public safety at their designated locations 24 hours a day and free police officers to address crime and other quality of life issues in the City.
Q: If ticketing drivers reduces crashes, why doesn't the Police Department enforce more red light running violations?
A: Cameras reduce the dangers of red light enforcement to officers and the public. It is often difficult to locate a safe parking site to monitor these locations. Officers trying to enforce red light violations may have to travel against heavy traffic, increasing the likelihood of a collision. The police department does not have enough officers to enforce every intersection 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The camera has the ability to capture violations in the absence of officers.
Q: Do cameras photograph every vehicle passing through an intersection?
A: No. Cameras are set so that only those vehicles that enter the intersection after the traffic signal has turned red are photographed. Vehicles that enter the intersection in the yellow phase and are still in the intersection when the light turns red are not photographed. The camera system only takes pictures when a violation occurs.
Q: What kind of violation will be issued and what would the fine be?
A: Virginia State Code 15.2-968.1 mandates the violation as a driver responsibility. It is presumed that the owner of the vehicle was the driver at the time of the violation. Red light violations are handled similar to a parking violation. There is no insurance liability and no DMV implication or points associated with the driver or owner of the vehicle. By law, the civil fine cannot exceed $50.
Q: How will I know which intersections have red light cameras?
A: Legislation enacted by the 2007 General Assembly requires that localities place conspicuous signs within 500 feet of the intersection where a Photo Safety Program red light camera is installed. Localities are also required to conduct a public awareness program advising the public that a photo enforcement system is being implemented or expanded. The intersections where cameras are currently in use are listed below:
South Patrick and Gibbon Streets
South Patrick and Franklin Streets
Duke and Walker Streets
Q: What happens when a funeral procession or emergency vehicle continues through a red light at an intersection that is photo enforced?
A: Special circumstances such as a funeral processions will be rejected by officers. Emergency vehicle generated violations (Police, Fire, EMS) will be reviewed by officers in the interest of public safety. All violations are screened and reviewed individually by an Alexandria police officer before a determination is made that a violation of law has occurred .
Q: Who will determine what constitutes a violation?
A: All violations are reviewed and certified by a Sworn Alexandria Police Officer before they are issued.
Q: How is the timing interval determined between the red, yellow and green traffic lights at an intersection?
A: The City of Alexandria Department of Traffic Engineering & Environmental Services is responsible for determining the traffic light timing intervals. Intervals at signals is determined based on variables such as the posted speed limit, typical deceleration rates of vehicles, the grade of the road (uphill or downhill), the width of the intersection, and the amount of time it takes a driver to see the yellow signal and react (perception & reaction time).
Q: Isn’t the main purpose of red light cameras to make money?
A: No. The objective of Alexandria’s Photo Safety Program is to improve traffic, pedestrian and intersection safety. Signs and publicity campaigns required by the 2007 General Assembly warn motorists that photo enforcement cameras are in use.
Q: What constitutes a red light violation?
A: A red light violation occurs when a vehicle enters an intersection, crossing the white stop line, when the light is red, or when a right-turning car does not come to a complete stop before making a legal right turn on red where allowed.
Q: Does the system enforce right turns on red lights when the vehicle does not come to a complete stop?
A: Yes. Virginia law requires all vehicles to stop on a red light signal. Right turns on red are permitted unless otherwise posted, after coming to a full stop. The camera will capture right turn violations on vehicles that proceed without coming to a full stop. The sensors will detect violations in the right turn lanes being monitored and activate the photo enforcement system. Officers will review each captured offense and determine if the vehicle stopped and proceeded safely and in accordance with Virginia law.
Q: What happens if my vehicle is caught disregarding a red traffic signal?
A: The photo enforcement system captures the violation. The contracted company reviews and validates the violation and sends it to the Police Department. A sworn law enforcement officer reviews the evidence captured by the system and either confirms that a violation occurred or dismisses the violation due to circumstances that are either acquired by the monitoring system or observed in the video evidence. If the officer confirms the violation, he or she will then verify the vehicle owner’s information for mailing of the notice of violation and $50 fine. The registered owner of the vehicle will receive the violation notice in the mail with instructions for viewing the violation.
Q: How do I review the violation and pay the fine?
A: The vehicle owner will be provided with a violation notice and three still photographs of the vehicle on the printed violation notice. The vehicle owner can review the red light violation via the internet at www.photonotice.com. The instructions for accessing this website are printed on the violation notice. Both video and still photo evidence is available for review. The owner/driver can arrange for an opportunity to meet with a Photo Safety Program Officer at 703-746-1900. By calling this number, the vehicle owner can make an appointment to review the evidence and discuss the red light running violation. After meeting with the Photo Safety officer, if the vehicle owner/driver does not agree with his/her finding, they can request a court date for the evidence to be heard in the Alexandria Civil Court. The court arrangements will be made by a Photo Safety Program officer.
Payment can be made by credit card via the REDFLEX internet site on the violation notice.
Q: Does the camera take a picture of the vehicle driver?
A: No. The images taken are: 1) Image of the car at the stop line when the traffic signal is red, 2) Image of the vehicle’s rear license plate, and 3) Image of the vehicle proceeding through the intersection while the traffic signal is red.
Q: What will happen if I ignore the violation notice?
A: If the registered owner of the vehicle fails to respond to the Notice of Violation within 60 days, a second notice is issued by REDFLEX. If no response is received, REDFLEX will mail a Final Determination Notice to the violator. If payment is still not received, then legal steps (in accordance with VA State Code 15.2-968.1 and 19.2-76) will be taken to serve the registered owner of the vehicle with legal notice. Service by mail is valid, however, it does not create a collectable or enforceable judgment. Virginia law recognizes that people may have moved and not updated the information on their vehicle registration. Thus, before a judgment can be entered for the $50 penalty in the absence of the vehicle owner, the registered owner of the vehicle must be personally served with the summons. This will be done when the City files a civil lawsuit in the Alexandria general district court to enforce the civil penalty.
Q: Why did the City of Alexandria give drivers a 30-day warning period?
A: Disregarding a red traffic signal is a violation of the law at every signalized intersection in the City of Alexandria. The warning period only applies to the use of the automated enforcement camera system. The 30-day warning period is part of the public awareness process for implementing or expanding the automated enforcement program.
Q: What happens if an officer issues a summons to the driver of a vehicle and the red light camera also captures the vehicle during the red light running violation?
A: An officer’s summons takes precedence over the camera violation citation. A Virginia Uniform Summons (VUS) will be issued and the Violation Notice will be dismissed. If you received both a VUS and a Violation Notice, please call the Photo Safety Program number at 703-746-1900 and speak with an officer.
Q: What happens when the camera captures an Alexandria City vehicle?
A: City owned vehicle violations are processed in the same manner as private citizen violations. A sworn police officer reviews each violation and either accepts or rejects it. Violation notices are mailed to the address listed on the vehicle’s DMV registration.
Q: What happens when the camera captures a commercial motor vehicle or a vehicle that is owned by a company or state or local agency that has a fleet of vehicles?
A: The violation notice is mailed to the registered owner the same as any other vehicle.
Q: Are there phone numbers I can call to get more information about REDFLEX?
A: Yes. REDFLEX provides a toll free telephone number into their call center for citizen inquiries from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (CST). The number is 1.877.847.2338.
For more information contact the Public Information Office at 703.746.1900.