Charlotte's SafeLight Program
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:
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
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
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
Charlotte Department of Transportation
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