An Evaluation of Red Light Camera (Photo-red) Enforcement Programs in Virginia: A Report in Response to a Request by Virginia's Secretary of Transportation

Report No: 05-R21

Published in 2005

About the report:

Red light running, which is defined as the act of a motorist entering an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red, caused almost 5,000 crashes in Virginia in 2003, resulting in at least 18 deaths and more than 3,800 injuries. In response to a June 2, 2004, directive from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Whittington W. Clement, an evaluation of the photo-red enforcement programs that operate in Virginia was undertaken. Generally, Virginia's photo-red programs are technically feasible. Case law strongly indicates that the programs pass legal muster in the three key areas: privacy, equal protection, and due process, and public opinion surveys suggest that roughly two-thirds of respondents support red light cameras. There is, however, a practical issue with regard to issuing citations for out-of-state motorists, as noted in the report. Although an economic analysis was not feasible in the study time frame, a limited fiscal analysis suggests that, in general, Virginia localities are not generating net revenue. Finally, an operational analysis based on violations and crashes shows a potential but not definite safety improvement. The cameras clearly affect driver behavior; across the 23 intersections where reliable citation data could be obtained, citations decreased by an average of 21% per intersection. Further the data show that the cameras are correlated with a definite decrease in crashes that are directly attributable to red light running, a definite increase in rear-end crashes, a possible decrease in angle crashes, a net decrease in injury crashes attributable to red light running, and an increase in total injury crashes. More time is needed to determine whether the severity of the eliminated red light running crashes was greater than that of the induced rear-end crashes. The report recommends that Virginia's photo-red enforcement programs be continued for an additional year to resolve this question and to collect additional data that was not feasible during the 6-month time frame of this report.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • John S. Miller, Ph.D., P.E.
  • Saeed Eslambolchi, Rahul Khandelwal, Kimberly M. Mattingly, Kristin W. Sprinkle, Patrick Wachendorf, Nicholas J. Garber, Ph.D.

Last updated: November 29, 2023

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