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Red Light, Green Light, Snap!

2 minute read

Red light… green light! The rule that we go on green and stop on red is an intrinsic part of our childhood and is also one of the most important rules on the road. Though it depends on the state, failure to stop at a red light can see motorists paying anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over $500 in fines plus a couple of demerit points.

While the majority of Australians understand the importance of traffic lights, hundreds of drivers are caught by red light cameras every day. Whether intentional or not, people are putting themselves and others in danger by not stopping at red lights.

How exactly do red light cameras work?

When the traffic light turns red, sensors under the road and before the white stop line are activated.  If these sensors detect that a vehicle may have run a red light, they trigger the red light camera to take a picture of the offending vehicle. These photos are then reviewed by the respective departments in each state.

Red light cameras are usually attached to a pole or infrastructure a few meters away from the solid white line and many operate 24/7.

Red light cameras are generally placed at intersections with increased risk of crashing.

The photos taken by the red light cameras include details that are useful for drivers if they wish to appeal the fine, including date and time of the offence, location details of the camera and travel direction of the offending vehicle. In all states, the locations of red light or combined red light speed cameras are revealed.

So, how often do people get caught running a red light?

There are around 113 red light and combined red light speed cameras in Queensland and in 2021 a motorist ran through a red light once every 17 minutes¹ – this is nearly 85 red light offences a day. In Western Australia, there are around 71 red light speed cameras across the state. An average of 55 motorists were caught running a red light daily in 2015².

While the Australian Capital Territory has merely 13 red light cameras, 3438 fines were issued in 2019. This averages out to roughly 264 offenders caught per camera and resulted in over $1.5 million in fines³.

You may have misjudged distance before and unintentionally ran a red light or seen other motorists run a red light and thought well, what’s the big deal?

Intersections are undoubtedly a dangerous area with busy traffic flowing in every direction and increased pedestrian activity. Disobeying a red traffic light at an intersection can result in a right-angle/T-bone crash. Right-angle crashes, especially at intersections, are particularly dangerous because of two reasons:

  • Less protection – the sides of vehicles have less protection compared to the front and rear of the vehicle. A lack of side impact airbags in many vehicles, combined with minimal crumple zones (read more about crumple zones here), means that vehicles cannot absorb as much impact resulting in more severe injuries.
  • Potential for more damage – the vehicles involved can cause subsequent road collisions which can be fatal, especially for pedestrians4.

The best way to avoid unintentionally crossing the white line on a red light and a hefty fine is to remember, amber means slow down NOT speed up. Stop on amber – it may just save your life.

Sources: (1) (2) (3) (4)

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