The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Fredericksburg needs to install red light cameras

4 min read

Intersection at William Street and College Avenue. | Jenny Thompson / The Blue & Gray Press


Staff Writer

Fredericksburg needs to implement more red light cameras at intersections to improve the safety of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in the community.

According to the U.S Department of Transportation, 445,382 drivers were ticketed for running red lights on Fridays in 2020, which made it “the deadliest day for red-light running.” Additionally, in 2019, 143,000 accidents involving running red lights ended in injury and 846 ending in death.

One way to decrease this high number of accidents is by implementing cameras on stop lights at intersections. These cameras work by taking two photographs of a vehicle that enters an intersection after the stop light has turned red, which are alerted by sensors placed in the road. One photograph captures the vehicle entering the intersection during a red light, and the other  photographs the vehicle proceeding through the intersection. Red light cameras do not photograph drivers who were in the intersection when the light started out green but then turns red. 

Many communities across Virginia, such as Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Richmond and Virginia Beach, have put red-light cameras in place

Before Fairfax County put in red light cameras, there was a red light run every 20 minutes at each intersection, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

In a Virginia traffic study, right light cameras reduced the total number of red light runners by 67 percent. Furthermore, in cities similar to Fredericksburg in size, fatal accidents caused by running red lights were reduced by 21 percent. 

According to an interactive map of photo-enforced camera locations at intersections in Virginia, Fredericksburg has only one license plate camera that monitors traffic patterns and does not issue tickets, detect red light runners or other traffic violations. 

Red light cameras cost upwards of $100,000, which includes their installation. In Virginia, the cost of running a red light is $50 per violation, which means that about 2,000 red light violations would be the equivalent cost of one red light camera. 

Senior business administration major Samantha Stachowiak finds driving in Fredericksburg more stressful than in her hometown in Maryland.

“I have never seen so many people run red lights like I have in my three and a half years in Fredericksburg,” said Stachowiak. “I always make sure to wait an extra second or two before going through a green light, even though I have the right of way.” 

One of the most common arguments against putting in red light cameras is the tickets received resulting from running a red light. However, there’s a simple fix: if drivers don’t want a ticket, they shouldn’t run the red light.

False ticketing is another concern of implementing red light cameras, but there is a system in place to avoid this issue. After a picture is taken of a vehicle, it is sent to law enforcement officers for analysis to ensure that the sensor and camera were correct and that the driver violated the law before a ticket is sent out.

Since drivers are concerned about the price of a ticket for running a red light, they should think of the price of damages that result from accidents due to running a red light.

A Federal Highway Administration study showed that seven communities that put in red light cameras saw a decrease of $18.5 million in losses related to intersection accidents.

Virginia is one of 23 states that allows red light cameras to be approved for use, and their use has been legal since 2007.  

Senior business administration major Sam Pugliese believes that the overall safety of the population would be raised in Fredericksburg by installing red light cameras. 

“I think red light cameras would be a really beneficial thing for Fredericksburg,” said Pugliese. “I can count on both hands the amount of times I have almost been T-boned by someone at an intersection who is running through a red light.”

Living so close to a major Fredericksburg intersection has recently changed his perspective on driving.

“I have a constant fear now of driving through intersections that I have never had before because of all the dangers I have seen from people running red lights, especially by my house in Fredericksburg where I saw someone get T-boned recently,” he said.

Just a few red light cameras could make a large impact on the entire community. Not only do they decrease how often red lights are run at the specific monitored intersections, they also influence other nearby intersections that aren’t equipped, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Another common complaint against red light cameras is that there would be an increase of rear-end accidents caused by drivers stopping too quickly at lights to avoid running them. 

Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown inconclusive evidence on this concern, but rear-ending accidents cause significantly less damage and are less severe than front-into-side or right-angle crashes, which are seen when someone runs a red light. Additionally, accidents that result in being rear-ended are much less costly than right-angle or front-into-side crashes. Therefore, the possibility of rear-end crashes caused by the presence of red light cameras is not as damaging, both physically and economically, as those caused by running a red light.

If Fredericksburg implemented red light cameras at intersections, it would greatly enhance community safety by decreasing the chances of dangerous accidents caused by people running red lights. Since Fredericksburg is home to UMW, college students who rely on walking around campus as their primary form of transportation to classes from their dorms need to feel safe when crossing an intersection that has a red light.