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Charlotte's SafeLight Program Reduces Red-Light
Running and Crashes
In Charlotte, N.C., 25 percent of all traffic crashes occur at signalized intersections - with a majority of those crashes occurring from motorists illegally running red lights. This type of driving behavior causes vehicle collisions that damage property, injures individuals and causes loss of life. To counter this trend, Charlotte introduced a safety initiative aimed at reducing the number of vehicles that run red lights: SafeLight.

Charlotte's SafeLight program was North Carolina's first red-light monitoring program. In July 1998, the first two red-light cameras were unveiled at two of Charlotte's most dangerous intersections.

SafeLight cameras are now located at 20 intersections to monitor and record motorists running red lights. Another 10 intersections are equipped with metal boxes that are bullet-proof camera housings. Periodically, cameras are rotated between the 30 locations.

The SafeLight camera system is activated, and enforcement begins, when the traffic signal turns red. Once the signal turns green, the system automatically turns off and enforcement ends. The system is designed so that it can only take a photograph during the red light phase. It cannot take a photograph during a yellow or green light phase.

Once a vehicle passes over the sensors embedded in the road, the camera takes two photographs. The first photo shows the vehicle entering the intersection. The second photo shows the vehicle proceeding through the intersection. The data box in the first photo records the violation date and time, yellow signal time preceding the violation and red time elapsed when the violation occurred. The second photo data box records the violation date and time, time interval between the first and second photograph, red time elapsed when the vehicle is photographed proceeding through the intersection and speed of the vehicle at the time of the violation. Trained technicians view each photograph to ensure a violation has occurred and that someone did not simply stop late. Two different technicians view each photograph to ensure accuracy. Special scanners are used to zoom in on the license plate and read the plate clearly.

If a violation has occurred, the name, address and identifying information of the registered owner is obtained from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, based upon the license plate of the vehicle which has been photographed. A citation is then issued and sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. Citations are issued within two business days of the violations.

After two years of operation, the City of Charlotte SafeLight program continues to reduce the number of motorists who run red lights and the crashes they cause.

To measure the effect of SafeLight cameras on automobile wrecks at the city's camera-monitored intersections, the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) compared pre-camera crash data with crash statistics collected during the SafeLight program's two years of operation.

  • Crashes at SafeLight approaches have decreased 24 percent during the program's first two years.
  • The severity of crashes at SafeLight intersections has dropped 14 percent.
  • Crashes caused by red-light violators declined 20 percent or more at 10 camera-monitored intersections. Four intersections experienced decreases of 50 percent or more.

While the SafeLight program focuses on preventing wrecks caused by red-light runners, red-light cameras have an auxiliary effect by reducing total crashes at intersections. All types of crashes at SafeLight intersections fell nine percent during the program's first two years. Compare that with a five percent increase in crashes citywide during the same two-year period.

SafeLight's message of creating safer streets has captured the attention of 98 percent of Charlotte/Mecklenburg County residents who state they are aware of the SafeLight program. Eighty-six percent believe the program is beneficial to the community. Eighty-two percent believe the program helps reduce red light running, and 75 percent feel that the program helps reduce traffic accidents.

Contact: Brett Vines
Communications Manager
Charlotte Department of Transportation
(704) 336-3902

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