FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What is automated traffic enforcement?
A: The purpose of an automated traffic enforcement program is to augment traffic enforcement resources and to help positively impact driving behavior at the most dangerous intersections and stretches of road. Automated traffic enforcement equipment is able to be present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to identify red light runners and excessive speeders. Cities in the United States have successfully implemented these types of programs for more than two decades. Today, more than 600 cities in the U.S. utilize this technology to aid law enforcement efforts to reduce injuries and fatalities on our roadways.
Q: Are speeding and red-light running really a problem?
A: Speeding is a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal traffic collisions/crashes according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Because speeding reduces the time drivers have to avoid crashes, it increases the likelihood of crashing and also the severity of crashes that do occur.
Each year, approximately 800 people are killed and an estimated 165,000 are injured in crashes that involved red-light running according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. About half of the deaths in red-light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red-light runners.
Q: How does fixed and mobile speed monitoring equipment work?
A: Mobile units (sport utility vehicles) are deployed allowing them to change locations to manage changing traffic demographics and needs such as school and construction zones. Fixed speed monitoring equipment, on the other hand, are housed in a permanent location with a protective casing and are also clearly marked with signage to indicate their presence.
Mobile units are equipped with a radar unit that monitors vehicle speeds as traffic approaches and passes. If a vehicle is exceeding the 'enforcement' speed, the radar unit signals a camera to take a picture of the violating vehicle as it approaches the enforcement equipment and a second image as it goes past the enforcement equipment. These images document the vehicle, license plate, and speed.
Fixed speed monitoring equipment is similar to intersection red-light cameras in
that they utilize underground sensors and also a secondary speed verification system. If a vehicle is exceeding the 'enforcement' speed, the radar unit signals the cameras to take a series of pictures of the violating vehicle passing through the detection zone. These images and a video sequence document the vehicle, license plate, and speed.
Q: How do the red-light cameras work?
A: The intersection is equipped with several high-resolution, high-speed
digital cameras. The cameras are activated by underground sensors which are located at the intersection and are only activated when a moving vehicle is detected by the sensors after the light has turned red. The cameras take several digital photos to document the violation. Citations contain images of the violation vehicle before it enters the intersection, while the vehicle is in the intersection, and the vehicle license plate.
Intersections with cameras are clearly marked with signs indicating the intersection is photo enforced, and rumble strips in the pavement are utilized to alert motorists an intersection with camera equipment is approaching. The system does not trigger when the light is in the yellow phase. You would only receive a violation notice if you enter the intersection after the signal turns red.
Q: Will the red-light cameras be in operation/used to capture violations of right-turn and left-turn lane movements?
A: Yes. The cameras will capture, with violation notices sent, for running a red light on a right-turn or left-turn lane movement.
Q: I have heard that red-light cameras cause rear-end accidents.
A: Drivers enter into rear-end collisions because they are traveling too fast and following too closely, not because of red-light cameras. To encourage drivers to stay focused on the road and pay attention, advanced warning using signs and rumble strips in the pavement are added to the locations where systems are in use.
Q: Do the cameras take a picture of every vehicle that drives by?
A: No. The system only captures high-resolution photographs and video if the system detects a violation. In a red-light camera system, the cameras will only capture incidents during the red phase of the signal - the cameras are not triggered while the light is amber, or yellow. For speed monitoring systems, once an excessive speed is determined the cameras are triggered to generate images.
Q: Isn't conventional enforcement enough? Will the cameras replace officers?
A: Traditional traffic law enforcement is intensive and high-risk. When officers observe a violation, it is not always possible to safely stop the violator because the officer may have to speed or run a red light to do so. This can endanger motorists and pedestrians as well as police officers, and traffic stops in high-traffic areas can increase congestion. It's also impossible for police departments to monitor the roadways on a round-the-clock basis. Automated traffic enforcement programs are designed to identify violators and lessen the need for the presence of police officers on the roadside. Conventional law enforcement will not go away with the use of automated traffic enforcement.
Q: Does an officer review my complaint before it is mailed?
A. Yes. Before a notice of violation is ever issued, a sworn Rio Rancho police officer reviews the video footage to ensure that each violation is valid and prosecutable in court. A sworn police officer determines whether a violation has occurred. Once a citation has been issued, drivers have the ability to review the photos and video at www.photonotice.com (city code: RRNCNM) to see why they were issued a notice of violation. The data bar on the violation photo contains information on location, posted speed limit and vehicle speed for your review. This evidence will be presented in court along with records indicating system accuracy. Automated traffic enforcement programs have been in use for more than 20 years and, in that time, the technology has proven extremely accurate and reliable.
Q: Do plate blockers and sprays work?
A: No. First and foremost, utilizing many of these products is illegal. Moreover, with the industrial flash technology, most of the sprays actually serve to enhance the image of a reflective surface like a license plate, making the evidence even more prosecutable.
Q: Is this more "Big Brother?"
A: Most of our laws are built around providing for the safety and the greater
good of society. Automated traffic enforcement equipment is posted in public arenas and is clearly marked to ensure citizens are aware that they are in use.
Drivers are only affected and the cameras are in use only if an infraction is committed. A violation is mailed out and includes a link to view the video and photo of the incident along with detailed data. Cameras have become a part of our everyday existence. If you shop at a store, use an ATM or fill up your car, you're on camera. When you choose to travel on public streets, you have a responsibility to operate in a safe and legal way.
Automated traffic enforcement technology is simply one tool available to the community to ensure that citizens are driving in a safe and responsible manner for the benefit of themselves and those around them. Only violators are captured with high-resolution images and video.
Q: How much is using automated traffic enforcement going to cost taxpayers and the community?
A: The automated traffic enforcement program Rio Rancho is using is self-funded and does not require financial commitment from municipal government or from taxpayers. The technology provider builds, owns, operates and maintains the equipment and receives a fee for its service through violator generated funds.
Q: Does the system enforce running right-turns on red?
A: Yes. Vehicle code requires all vehicles to come to a FULL STOP at a red-light signal. Right-turns on red are then permitted unless otherwise posted and only when yielding to pedestrians and bicyclists. The sensors will detect violations in the right-turn lanes being monitored and activate the photo enforcement system. The camera will capture right-turn violations on vehicles that proceed without coming to a full stop. Officers will review each captured offense and determine if the vehicle stopped and proceeded safely in accordance with city ordinances and state law.
Q: Who endorses use of red-light cameras?
A: U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration, National Safety Council and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety all support the use of cameras for their role in significantly reducing speeding, red-light violations, crashes, and injuries and deaths at intersections where in operation.
In October 2010, the University of New Mexico released a report that studied the city of Albuquerque’s red-light camera program from its start date in Octoberr 2004.
The study results included:
-Continued use of red-light cameras is supported due to data that shows number of injury crashes decreased (injury crashes decreased by 25.6 percent and angle crashes decreased by 28.8 percent) post-installation of equipment as compared to pre-installation of equipment; at the same, there was a 1 percent increase in rear-end crashes and property damage only crashes post-installation of equipment as compared to pre-installation of equipment
-An estimated 120 injury accidents were prevented since program inception to December 2008
-Red-light running decreased (dropping from approximately 600 citations to 100 citations per month at red-light camera intersections) post-installation of equipment as compared to pre-installation of equipment, indicating driver behavior was modified
-More than $2 million was saved in property damage, medical and other costs
*Fixed speed monitoring equipment and its effects were not studied as in most cases this equipment was installed simultaneously with fixed red-light camera equipment
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
In February 2011, the IIHS released a report that showed:
-Fatal red-light running crashes during 2004-2008 in 14 cities with cameras were estimated to be 24 percent lower than the rates that would have been expected without cameras
-If red light-cameras had been in place from 2004-2008 in all 99 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided
-Red-light running killed 676 people and injured an estimated 113,000 in 2009; 64 percent of the deceased were people other than the red-light running drivers – occupants of other vehicles, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians
Q: Do photo enforcement flash units cause collisions?
A: No. The flash duration is less than 1/200th of a second. That is shorter than lighting due to weather. The intensity of the flash is no brighter than any camera one might purchase for personal use. The height of the pole, shape of the reflector, and distance to motor vehicles and pedestrians also minimize the effect of the flash.
Q: Are points assessed against my driver’s license for photo enforcement convictions?
A: No. Automated traffic enforcement programs are a civil violation, much like a parking ticket. It is not reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles or your insurance company.
Q: Does a red light or speeding violation citation cost less if a police officer cites you on the roadway immediately after the violation occurs as opposed to a citation stemming from automated traffic enforcement?
A: No. In Rio Rancho, the fine for a red light or speeding violation captured by automated traffic enforcement and reviewed and authorized by a Rio Rancho Police Officer is a flat fee of $100.
If a Rio Rancho Police Officer cites you on the roadway immediately after a speeding violation has occurred the fine amount can range, according to current city ordinances, from $144 to $459 (fine amounts are higher if violation occurs in construction zone).
If a Rio Rancho Police Officer cites you on the roadway immediately after a red light violation has occurred the fine amount is $114, according to current city ordinances.
Q: Why is the city not placing automated traffic enforcement equipment on N.M. 528/Pat D’Arco Highway?
A: N.M. 528/Pat D’Arco Highway is a state road and per a ruling by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) Commission in March 2010, the placement of automated enforcement on state roads is restricted.