how do we get more red light cameras?

I live close to Fremont Park in Sacramento’s central city. I walk through the park every day I’m in town, often multiple times. That means I’m crossing through the bounding intersections of P Street & 15th Street, Q Street & 15th Street, Q Street & 16th Street, and P Street and 16th Street, multiple times a day. I also spend a lot of time at Naked Lounge on the southeast corner of Q Street and 15th Street, and some time at Karma Brew on the northwest corner of P Street and 16th Street. That gives me a front row seat to watching the behavior of drivers at these intersections. On nearly every signal cycle, I seem a driver running the red light at each of these intersections. This is not a the exception, it is the rule. By running the red light, I don’t mean entering the intersection on yellow and finishing on red, I mean entering the intersection on red. I mean drivers that are intentionally endangering themselves, other drivers, bicyclists, and walkers. Every signal cycle.

Though I’m an able-bodied and aware walker, Fremont Park is also used by a lot of homeless individuals, families using the playground, people sitting on the benches and reading, people lying on the grass and enjoying the sun (finally) and enjoying the shade (now), people participating in a number of organized recreation activities such as yoga, and of course the festivals such as Chalk It Up. This is a place that should be safe to get to for everyone. It is not currently.

I wrote about a crash at P Street and 15th Street. I’ve written multiple times about red light cameras, pandemic of red light running, red-light-running bullies, and SacCity red light cameras and crashes.

Let me state up front that I am NOT in favor of the enforcement of traffic laws by armed police officers. I have seen first-hand the way in which traffic stops are used to harass and oppress people of color and low income. I have read and seen innumerable accounts of officers murdering the people they stop on pretext. Armed law enforcement is the problem, not the solution. On the other hand, I am strongly in favor of automated enforcement. It is my theory that most serious traffic violations are by a small number of egregious drivers. Automated enforcement can ticket these drivers, which will change the behavior of some of them, but not of many of them who are high income drivers of high end vehicles. It does, however, allow law enforcement to identify repeat offenders and hold them accountable with vehicle confiscation and drivers license suspension.

I want there to be red light enforcement cameras installed on at least one of the four intersections at Fremont Park. My observations indicate that the intersection of Q Street and 15th Street is the worst. I looked on the city’s Red Light Running Program page to see if there was a mechanism for submitting requests. No. I looked at the city’s 311 app to see if there was a place to submit a request. Not really. The closest I could find was to select Streets > Traffic Investigation, and then Signals (see screenshots below). I’ll update this when I get a response (though these days most 311 reports get no response at all).

The other way of request that might be effective is to directly contact city council members.

red light running consequences

I’ve written recently about red-light-running bullies. On Wednesday morning I got to observe the logical consequences of this behavior.

red light running crash at P St & 15th St
red light running crash at P St & 15th St

The driver of the SUV heading south on P Street intentionally ran the red light, colliding with the passenger car that was heading west through the intersection. The red light running was well after the light had turned red. Fortunately the red light running driver slammed on his brakes and the resulting collision was low speed, or the other driver might well be dead. I might well have been dead if the other car had not been in the way, since I was using the crosswalk over 15th St, west to east, and would quite possible have been run over by the SUV driver. The driver would have been much less likely to see me than to see the other car.

Really all the red light running driver had to say is that we was in a hurry.

Perhaps most interesting is that law enforcement refused to come to the crash. The passenger car driver had called 911 shortly after the crash, as did at least one bystander. I waited 45 minutes so that I could give a statement. The passenger car driver said that he had finally gotten a text message back that no one would respond. So the crash will not get recorded anywhere. The SUV driver will not get a ticket. Apparently the 911 operator had transferred the caller to CHP, and it is CHP that refused to respond. Perhaps they were busy attending a white supremacy meeting somewhere and couldn’t be bothered. No one died – what’s the big deal?

Just more traffic violence. Nothing to see here. Let’s move along.

SacCity red light cameras and crashes

A follow on to red-light-running bullies. I’ve created a map that shows the eleven right light camera (automated enforcement) locations under the City of Sacramento’s Red Light Running Program. The city has 907 signalized intersections. These locations are (listed alphabetically by the intersection entry in the Traffic Signals GIS layer):

  • 16th Street & W Street X
  • 21st Street  & Broadway X
  • 5th Street & I Street X
  • Alhambra Boulevard & J Street
  • Arden Way & Challenge Way X
  • Arden & Exposition Boulevard & Ethan Way X
  • El Camino Avenue & Evergreen Street X
  • Fair Oaks Boulevard & Howe Avenue X
  • Folsom Boulevard & Howe Avenue/Power Inn Road X
  • Mack Road & Center Parkway X
  • Mack Road & La Mancha Way/Valley Hi Drive X

The map (pdf) shows each location, with the red signal icon, and a heat map of the crash severity for crashes occurring at intersections. Yellow means high collision severity, with severity being a weighting of the individual types [1 – Fatal; 2 – Injury (Severe); 3 – Injury (Other Visible); 4 – Injury (Complaint of Pain)]. But it does show the pattern, and you can clearly see the intersections along arterial roadways, where most crashes occur. The crashes are not necessarily red light running crashes. There is a PCF Violation category (VIOLCAT) 12 – Traffic Signals and Signs, and another Intersection (INTERSECT_), but that would not distinguish red light running from stop sign running. It might take looking at individual incident reports, but that is beyond my capacity.

There are certainly high crash severity locations in the city that are beyond the map coverage area, and there are plenty of locations without cameras.

It would be interesting to know if these red light camera locations have a lower rate of red light running crashes that comparable intersections without cameras, but that will require quite a bit more thinking an analysis.

Read More »

red-light-running bullies

If you go stand at any busy intersection in Sacramento, you will see drivers running red lights on almost every single signal cycle. Of course this problem is not unique to Sacramento, but it is where I live and walk and bicycle, and I see it every day, at every signalized intersection. I am not talking about drivers entering the intersection on the yellow light, and not making it through before it turns red. I am talking about drivers entering the intersection when the light is already red. And quite often, they accelerate into the red light, making sure they can get through.

I call this bullying behavior. It says that I (the driver) is more important than anyone else. Me (the driver) making this light is more important than anything else in the world, which translates to my (the driver’s) convenience is more important than anyone else’s life. I (the driver) know that this is dangerous behavior, but I (the driver) don’t care.

My preferred word for this is actually terrorism. Terrorism, however, implies actions by individuals against states, or more often by states against individuals (state-sponsored terrorism). This is not that. But the intent is the same, to change other people’s behavior by the threat of violence, or actual violence. This is traffic violence perpetrated by entitled drivers against everyone else on the road. Terrorism may not be technically correct, but it sure sounds right.

Most drivers have adjusted to this by not starting into the intersection on the green, but waiting until the run light running driver has cleared. Same for people bicycling and walking. Most walkers know it is not safe to enter the crosswalk until all the cars have stopped, because usually they will not stop. But not all drivers, walkers or bicyclists know, and these are the people being killed or seriously injured at intersections.

Red light running has always been a problem, but it has gotten much worse. It accelerated, I think, during the pandemic, when there was less traffic, and drivers started to gamble with running red lights. Now that the traffic is mostly back, they are still doing it. In my observation, it gets worse by the month.

Many people think that the solution to traffic violence is to change road designs so as to prevent dangerous driver behavior. I’m of course in favor of this. But in this instance, re-design does not prevent this bullying behavior.

Having near-side traffic signals, as many advanced countries do, would help a little because a driver who chose not to stop loses information about how late on the red they are and therefore is less likely to run the red light. See Near Side Signals: Thinking Outside the Pedestrian Box for more info on near side signals. But this alone would not solve the problem.

Slowing speeds would help, as the red light running driver would be a little less likely to kill the walker, bicyclist, or other driver and passengers than at higher speeds. But the red light runners are in my observation the same people who are driving well over the speed limit, adjusting their risk tolerance for to the highest possible level that won’t get them killed. Of course, these are not drivers who are much concerned about killing other people.

The City of Sacramento has a Red Light Running Program. The page says there are 11 cameras in the city. Out of 4000 plus intersections. This is not a serious response to a serious problem. It is in fact the typical city response to any transportation issue, to do the absolute minimum possible to avoid being called out for doing nothing.

I believe from extensive observation (I walk a LOT), though I have no data to prove it, that red light running is done by a fraction of drivers, and those drivers do it again and again and again. They’ve gotten away with it, so far, and will continue. At least 3/4 are drivers of expensive cars, high income, entitled people. If that is so, it would not take much to greatly reduce this behavior. Ticket them again and again and again, whether directly by law enforcement officers or by automated cameras, and their behavior would gradually change. Of course if we set ticket fines based on the value of the vehicle rather than flat rates, and impounded and/or confiscated vehicles upon repeated infractions, it would change even quicker.

Law enforcement is complicit in this red light running. I have never seen a driver stopped for running a red light. Ever. And in fact, law enforcement drivers are just as likely to run red lights as any other. Law enforcement doesn’t like automated enforcement, because it reduces the opportunity for them to do pretextual stops. It also is seen as reducing the need for officers, though since they don’t do this enforcement anyway, I can’t see how it actually reduces the need.

Many people have called on the city to install more leading pedestrian interval (LPI) lights in the city, where the pedestrian indicator turns to walk 3 seconds or more before the parallel traffic signal turns green. These of course help, but even where they already exist, the interval is now taken up by the time a walker must wait for the red light running drivers to clear the intersection before proceeding. Much less effective at promoting walking and safety than it could be.


  • The city could recognize that this is a serious traffic violence issue, and respond forcefully, with more enforcement and more automated cameras. The city’s Vision Zero policy obligates them to take traffic violence seriously, but they do not.
  • The CA-MUTCD could be changed to require near side traffic signals instead of far side traffic signals.
  • The state legislature and judicial council could change fines for violation of California Vehicle Code (CVC) to be based on the value of the vehicle. People often talk about basing fines on income, as some first world countries do, but income is not easily available to the law enforcement officer or processor of the red light camera mailed ticket, whereas the value of vehicles is available in the DMV database. If you run a red light in your $1000 clunker, the fine would be $1, and if you run a red light in your $200,000 trophy car, it would be $2000. To start.
  • Along with higher fines for drivers of fancy cars, the vehicles of these drivers should be impounded for the third violation of the same CVC within a year. Impound means you get the vehicle back after a certain period of time, maybe three months. And for those drivers that doesn’t control, then the vehicle should be confiscated, meaning you don’t get it back and the agency sells it. Maybe for more than six violations of the same CVC within a year, or ten within three years.
  • Walkers and bicyclists could equip themselves with paint ball guns so as to mark the vehicles of these bully drivers, so at least other people could see them coming. And perhaps other drivers would them start enforcing social pressure on them. It worked for smoking, when people who smoked in buildings and on transit were publicly shamed.
  • And of course, in the long run, we do need to re-design streets to that red light running is less likely, and less likely fatal due to lower speeds.

red light cameras

The City of Sacramento has 11 red light camera locations: Red Light Running Program. Of these, some are at high-injury intersections, but most are not. These locations are cross-referenced with high injury intersections shown in the post Sac Vision Zero new intersections map.

LocationTop allTop pedTop bike
Mack Rd & La Mancha Way/Valley Hi Drnonono
El Camino Ave & Evergreen Stnonono
Howe Ave & Fair Oaks Blvdnonono
Mack Rd & Center Parkwaynonono
Exposition Blvd & Ethan Waynonono
Broadway & 21st Stnonono
Folsom Blvd & Howe Ave/Power Inn Rdnonono
Arden Way & Challenge Waynonono
5th St & I Stnonono
16th St & W Stnonono
Alhambra Blvd & J Stnonono

My first thought is that the city was putting these cameras in the wrong location. But then I thought, what if the presence of red light cameras is making these locations safer and therefore dropping them out of the highest injury intersection list. I don’t have the information to answer that question, which would take analysis of crashes at the intersections, and before/after data.

What I do know is that many more red light cameras are needed to counteract the pandemic of red light running: pandemic of red light running. I spend time around the edges of Fremont Park, close to where I live, which includes the intersection of arterial streets P, Q, 15th, and 16th, and one of the things I do is watch traffic in the intersections. It has now become rare for a signal cycle for 16th St northbound at P St to not see an incidence of red light running. The other intersections are not quite as bad, but the pattern is there. And this is happening everywhere in Sacramento that I go; these are not likely to even be the worst intersections.

I believe that most of the red light running is by egregious violators, people who routinely and continuously violate traffic law for their own convenience or thrill seeking. This is true of most traffic violations, but red light running is the one most likely to result in fatality and serious injury, for people in all modes of travel. So having a more widespread set of red light cameras would serve to catch these red light violators. Of course the follow-up is necessary, to revoke the licenses and confiscate the vehicles of these repeat offenders. The longer the city looks the other way on this issue, the more people will come to see it as normal behavior, and the less safe our streets will be.

The standard response by cars-first entitled drivers is that tickets are just a money-making scheme by the government. The purpose of red light cameras is to make streets safer, and if that results in some income, so be it. I’m more than happy to have these sociopathic drivers hit in the pocketbook, and the money can be used to make our streets safer, such as by installing more red light cameras. Red light tickets, with photos, are part of the documentation needed to revoke licenses and confiscate vehicles.

pandemic of red light running

There is a pandemic of red light running in Sacramento, and probably everywhere else. There have always been some red light runners. But since the pandemic emptied many streets of prudent drivers and left them wide open to egregious violators, the problem is much worse now. I am not talking about drivers who ignore or speed up on yellow, and are still in the intersection when the light turns red, I am talking about drivers who enter the intersection when the signal is already red. Often, they speed up approaching the intersection, guaranteeing that any crash will be more serious.

I know many people will not believe this, or will offer up one of many windshield perspectives on why this is not really a problem: bicyclists run red lights all the time and pedestrians jump into the street, so that crashes are their fault and not the fault of the driver. Bullshit. This is an intentional behavior by people who know that they are driving in a dangerous manner, but think they’ll get away with it. And they often do, since other drivers and walkers and bicyclists mostly know not to enter an intersection without looking to see if any of these criminals are coming.

So, if you are a doubter, I ask that you spend time observing a busy or moderately busy intersection. It probably won’t take more than 10 minutes before you see someone run a red light. This behavior truly is pandemic.

One of my observations is that about 2/3 of these are drivers of high value cars, BMWs and huge pickup trucks being the worst offenders. These people, in the unlikely event that they get a ticket for their violation, probably just see this as a minor expense for driving the way they want to. If you don’t believe that the drivers of different kinds of vehicles behave differently, please see Driving Drunk: Car Models with the Most DUIs.

A walker who steps off the curb when the pedestrian signal gives them the right of way are significantly more likely to be hit, or narrowly avoiding being hit, by these criminal red light runners. Same for a bicyclists or other drivers who enter the intersection when the light tells them it is their turn. The situation is slightly different for walkers, who do have the right of way, and bicyclists and drivers, who can enter the intersection when it is safe to do so. But in all cases, the violator is endangering the lives of others.

Red light running is a behavior that is certain to result, sooner or later, in serious injury or fatality. As such, it should be a high priority for enforcement. Both red light cameras and on-the-ground enforcement are needed, and must continue until this criminal behavior recedes at least to pre-pandemic levels, and then beyond that, until it is eliminated.

Some specifics:

  • red light running tickets should be based on the value of the vehicle, so that high income people with high value cars are penalized at a level that will actually change their behavior, and conversely that low income people are not penalized in a way that leads to a downward spiral
  • all red light tickets, whether camera or on-the-ground, must require an appearance before a judge; short-term suspension of the drivers license should be the default punishment meted out; repeated violations should result in permanent revocation of the drivers license and confiscation of the vehicle
  • law enforcement should prioritize observation of and enforcement of driver behaviors that are most likely to result in serious injury or fatality; these behaviors in my mind include egregious speeding (more than 20% over speed limit), failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, and of course red light running; CHP really only cars about speeding, but this must change. Other law enforcement agencies are more likely to pay attention to other violations, but still not enough.

Some places have red light cameras to catch red light runners, but many places do not. The City of Sacramento has eleven locations with red light cameras, out of about 900 intersections. Sacramento County and the City of Citrus Heights have cameras, but I’ve been unable to find locations or numbers. Rancho Cordova has four locations. The City of Folsom apparently has none.