Traffic cameras are common in cities across the United States, and in recent years, they have appeared in more areas than ever before.
What purpose do those traffic cameras serve?
Do they record footage of what takes place in those intersections and on those roads?
Here are answers to some of the most burning questions you might have about traffic cameras.
Do traffic cameras record footage?
Whether traffic cameras record footage and just how much footage they record depends on the type of traffic camera.
Many traffic enforcement cameras, including red light cameras, exist for a specific purpose. If you see a traffic camera over a red light, chances are, it can capture a photo or short video footage of cars that move through the intersection after the light turns red. Typically, these cameras take only around 12 seconds or so of video footage, usually triggered by movement after the light from that direction turns red.
Speeding cameras may also capture about 12 seconds of footage when a vehicle speeds by them over the speed limit.
Due to an effort to decrease the number of people who try to pass by stopped school buses illegally, school bus cameras have increased in popularity in recent years. These cameras may capture short footage of the offending vehicle.
So: do traffic cameras record footage?
However, if you need to use traffic camera evidence as part of a car accident claim, you may need to contact a lawyer quickly and consider several things.
Traffic cameras usually do not capture sustained footage.
If you need long-term footage of what led to your accident, you probably cannot rely on a traffic camera to get it. Also, that footage may require something unusual to have taken place around the traffic camera, including a speeding driver or one who deliberately ran a red light.
The footage may be helpful if, for example, the driver who caused your accident ran through an intersection without pausing at the red light. In this scenario, traffic camera footage will probably show that the driver ignored the rules of the road and did not stop or yield to oncoming traffic. On the other hand, if you need to show that a distracted driver caused an accident by swerving into your lane, you may find that the traffic camera did not capture the moments that you need.
While some traffic cameras allow law enforcement and other government agencies to monitor traffic patterns and provide continuous streaming, many of the continuously streaming cameras do not record footage.
Traffic cameras may not capture everything you need.
Usually, traffic cameras are positioned to catch the license plates of vehicles that violate traffic laws. The license plate number is vital information that can allow the local police to issue a traffic citation.
However, this positioning means that traffic cameras usually do not aim into the vehicle directly.
Have an accident with a distracted driver? Distracted driving causes thousands of fatalities each year. Unfortunately, traffic camera footage probably will not show a distracted driver leaning over to grab something in the seat or floor of the vehicle or texting.
Were you involved in an accident with an intoxicated driver? Traffic camera footage may show that driver running the red light but may not include footage of the driver swerving in the road. It may also not show which driver operated the vehicle, which can make things difficult if a passenger in the vehicle swapped places with the driver to avoid drunk driving charges.
Traffic camera footage does not get stored long.
Most traffic cameras do not connect to indefinite storage capacity. Sometimes, databases may store that footage for just a few days before it gets deleted. If you need to use traffic camera footage as evidence following your accident, you may need to work with a lawyer to secure it as soon as possible.
Can footage from a traffic camera lead to points against my license?
While local police can use footage from the traffic camera to issue you a ticket, most of the time, they will not count it as a moving violation even if the traffic camera footage shows, for example, you running a red light or speeding. Since it does not count as a moving violation, it does not apply points to your license.
However, if you end up fighting a traffic citation issued by a police officer and the police officer uses traffic camera footage to establish that you did, in fact, run a red light, speed, or commit some other traffic violation, that footage may end up adding points to your license.
Furthermore, the police can use traffic camera footage to help establish liability in an auto accident, especially in cases of disputed liability. Suppose, for example, that one driver T-bones another in an intersection. Traffic camera footage may show which driver ran the red light, especially in cases where both drivers insist that they did not violate the rules of the road. That traffic camera footage can ultimately add points to your license since the police may write you a citation for the accident.
Does every intersection with a traffic camera actively record footage?
Not every intersection with a traffic camera actively records footage. Some cameras, especially older models, may only take photographs. Those photographs often provide a low-quality look at one still moment in time.
Other intersections may even have dummy traffic cameras. In New York, for example, the city uses as many dummy cameras cameras not hooked up to anything or recording as it does actual traffic cameras. The city moves those cameras around regularly so that drivers cannot predict which cameras actively record and which ones do not.
Furthermore, the presence of an active traffic camera does not guarantee that the traffic camera will capture the right moment.
What happens if someone else drives my vehicle and a traffic camera catches an accident or a moving violation?
Sometimes, you may loan your vehicle to someone who runs a red light, commits a clear moving violation in an intersection or near a speeding camera, or causes a collision.
If someone else driving your car causes an accident, you will not have to accept liability for the accident. However, your insurance company may have to pay out for any damage caused by the accident, and you may have your auto insurance rates increased accordingly. Additionally, in some states, you may have to pay the fine associated with a moving violation as the vehicle owner, even if you did not commit the moving violation. In other states, you can let the state know who drove the vehicle at the time of the incident and how to contact that person, passing along the fine to the person who committed the violation.
How can I get traffic camera footage from my accident?
If you suffer injuries in an accident and need traffic camera footage, contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. A lawyer can go through the proper channels to access vital information and get the evidence in your hands as quickly as possible. A lawyer can also use that footage to help build your claim.
A lawyer may have to request traffic camera footage soon after the accident since footage gets deleted regularly. You may not have the ability to recover traffic camera footage once it gets deleted or overwritten.
Can traffic camera footage or records benefit my accident claim?
Following a car accident, you may need evidence to help establish who caused the accident. In some cases, that traffic camera footage can help offer the evidence your lawyer needs to establish liability.
You might benefit from having traffic camera footage in several cases.
The other driver tries to deny liability for the accident (or his insurance company refuses to accept liability).
Sometimes, the other driver will acknowledge that he committed a foolish, illegal, or dangerous maneuver that led to the accident. The other driver might confess to speeding, as captured by a speeding camera, or running a red light. Other times, however, the other driver may not admit to liability.
The police may have trouble establishing which driver had the green light in a relatively empty intersection. If multiple lanes of traffic move through the intersection or several drivers sit nearby, establishing which lane had the green light may be straightforward. On the other hand, if you have an accident in an empty intersection in the middle of the night, the police may have a more challenging time determining which driver ran the red light and, therefore, which driver bears liability for the accident.
On the other hand, traffic camera footage can help establish exactly which driver ran the red light since traffic camera footage may capture any movement around the intersection after the light turns red.
You had an accident in clear view of the intersection or the traffic camera.
Traffic camera footage proves most valuable when your accident occurred clearly within the camera’s line. Suppose, for example, that you have a rear-end collision with another vehicle that backed up in the intersection. If the traffic camera clearly captured that incident, it may show that the other driver backed into you, rather than you coming up too close to the other vehicle and causing the accident.
On the other hand, if your accident occurred well back from the intersection, the camera may not have recorded helpful footage. The traffic camera might not have a long enough angle to capture that image, or the traffic camera might not have started recording since the accident occurred far enough back that it did not trigger the motion sensor.
Traffic camera footage can also prove valuable in establishing liability for a pedestrian accident. Pedestrians may ignore the rules of the road or enter an intersection unsafely, even at a crosswalk. If a pedestrian ignores the rules of safe travel, the pedestrian may bear liability for the accident. On the other hand, a driver who speeds through a crosswalk and hits a pedestrian would bear liability for the accident. In those cases, traffic camera footage can prove valuable in establishing which individual committed the dangerous error.
Do traffic cameras perform useful functions beyond identifying the liable party in an accident at an intersection?
Many people worry that traffic cameras remove the human touch from the traffic ticket process. They believe police officers can more accurately assess reasons for a moving violation. For example, an officer can distinguish between a person who ran a red light because they did not have adequate time to stop and someone speeding for a personal issue. Traffic cameras remove that human touch and issue tickets without thought.
Research shows that traffic cameras can help make money for the cities where they record traffic. They substantially reduce the risk of several types of accidents. T-bone collisions, for example, occur much less commonly in intersections with known traffic cameras. Many drivers slow down when approaching a red light or will even slam on their brakes before entering the intersection simply because they do not want to receive a ticket. Without traffic cameras, the rate of accidents in those intersections could grow much higher.
Do traffic cameras actually record footage? In short: sometimes, but often in short bursts. If you believe that traffic camera footage could help you establish who caused your accident or provide other, much-needed evidence to help with your claim, contact a lawyer as soon after your accident as possible. Doing so can help you learn how traffic camera footage could benefit you and what steps you may need to take to secure it.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.