New York City’s red-light traffic cameras focus of lawsuit

Since 1998, New York City has had cameras posted to take pictures of vehicles that go through intersections after traffic signals turn red. In December 2012, three New York residents filed a lawsuit on behalf of all of the drivers who have received citations as a result of the cameras, claiming that the way the city is running the program violates state and federal laws.

Red-light traffic camera program

In 1998, the New York legislature passed a bill allowing the city to install 50 traffic cameras around the city. Bills passed in 2006 and 2009 provided for an additional 100 cameras. The cameras take high-resolution photographs of vehicles that enter intersections after a traffic signal has turned red. The photos include close-up images of the vehicles' license plates. The city then issues citations to the owners of the vehicles through the mail.

According to the lawsuit, the red-light traffic camera program has generated about $235 million in revenue for the city since 2007, including $47.2 million in 2011 alone.

Lawsuit about cameras

The three men bringing the lawsuit seek an injunction preventing the city from operating the cameras until the program conforms with state and federal law. The men claim that the city now has 318 cameras operating in the city, even though the law only allows for 150.

The suit also claims that the yellow lights at many intersections do not last for at least three seconds. Federal law requires yellow lights last long enough to allow a driver to get through an intersection while travelling at the speed limit - which is three seconds for streets with speed limits of 30 mph The suit alleges that the New York chapter of the American Automobile Association examined approximately half a dozen yellow light times in response to member complaints and found them to be short by almost a half a second.

The plaintiffs are also demanding that the city refund money that it collected from "illegitimately issued citations and improper fines" under the red-light traffic camera program thus far. They claim that the traffic signals are rigged to be too short in order to create revenue for the city.

Seek legal assistance

Traffic violations are more than just a nuisance to pay. These citations can result in points on a person's driving record and ultimately end up causing a person's driver's license to be suspended. If you have a traffic ticket, talk to an experienced traffic violation attorney who can help reduce the impact on your driving record.