Is This Legal? Arizona Town Plans to Use “Tattle Tale” Lights to Cite Red Light Runners
For and Against Red Light Cameras
Red light cameras have been controversial since their inception. According to The Hill, law enforcement and traffic safety advocates claim red light cameras save lives.
Those who oppose the cameras claim they cause an increase in traffic accidents and are more about boosting municipal revenues than making roads safer.
Critics further claim the cameras violate the Sixth Amendment, specifically the Confrontation Clause which grants criminal defendants the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them.
Tucson Dumps Red Light Cameras
In 2015, voters in Tucson approved a measure to ban the use of 'red light' traffic cameras.
According to BallotPedia.org, proposition 201 rendered evidence from redlight cameras, inadmissible against a red light runner.
"If the only evidence of a traffic violation was gathered from such cameras, the violation could not be prosecuted and the city of Tucson was barred from using such evidence in court."
Going forward, the measure required an on-site witness in the prosecution of traffic violations, including citations made for running a red light. This meant a person had to be present to witness the infraction and issue a citation.
Red Light, Blue Light
When the City of Tucson adopted the red light camera program, they were hoping to cut down on serious and fatal injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and to other drivers.
According to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), red light running killed 1,109 people and injured an estimated 139,000 nationwide. The numbers in Tucson aren't looking good, either. This year, Tucson set new records for pedestrian deaths in the city.
So far this year, 22 passengers have died in vehicle crashes, compared to 15 over the same time last year. To date, 56 pedestrians have died on Tucson streets.
In an attempt to curtail this problem, the city of Tucson is considering the installation of so-called tattletale lights, which have been installed in other cities, according to KOLD.com.
How Blue Lights Are Used to Catch Drivers Who Run Lights
Police officers will use this new technology to assist in cutting down on red lighter runners, but some see this as a variation of red light cameras.
To a degree, the blue lights fill in the "eyewitness" requirement of Proposition 201. The violation is witnessed by a human police officer who acts as the "live person" required to give testimony when a driver runs a red light. In this case, the officer will be getting a little help from technology. So how do these so-called tattle tale lights work?
Blue Light Flash
Suppose a police officer is watching the traffic in a north-facing intersection. He can easily monitor the north and south-facing lights from his vantage point, but won't get a clear view of the lights on the east and west sides of the street.
If the City of Tucson approves this pilot program, a blue light will be mounted on a pole above the intersection, and the blue light will be synchronized with the red light.
When the light on the east and west sides turn red, the blue light will flash. If there's a car in the intersection when the blue light flashes, the officer will be able to see that the driver has run the red light. This will allow the officer to monitor red lights in all four directions.
Where Will the Blue Lights be Installed?
Tucson has plans to install these blue lights in ten of the most dangerous intersections in the city. They plan to start a pilot program at one of the city's worst intersections, Grant and Craycroft, with plans for blue lights at Grant and Tanque Verde and Oracle and River.
If a driver in Tucson is cited for running a red light, the fine is $250 fine and two points on the driver's license. If the officer is "seeing" the driver run the light with the assistance of the intersection's blue light, is this different from red light cameras that caught drivers running a red light?
Assuming the driver is pulled over and cited by the officer, the offender should be able to address his or her "accuser" in court, fulfilling the constitutional requirement.