Red light cameras - questions and answers

Posted by on 10 June 2013 at 09:00

How big a problem is red light running?

Between 2008 and 2012 there were 11 fatalities and 169 serious injuries and 1466 minor injuries at signalised urban intersections where red light running was a contributing factor. Seventy-six percent of these casualties were from right-angle crashes (i.e. one vehicle hitting another side-on). The average annual social cost of these crashes was $43 million.

Why does New Zealand need guidance on the use of red light cameras?

Developing a national policy on red light cameras was an action in the Safer Journeys Action Plan 2011-2012.

Red light cameras are a relatively new device for road safety in New Zealand and so a number of issues needed to be worked through before considering their broader use. These include:

  • consideration of their role within the Safe System framework
  • where in New Zealand red light cameras could be appropriate
  • determining criteria to ensure that use of red light cameras would result in cost-effective safety benefits
  • addressing issues around responsibility for the purchase, installation, operation and maintenance of red light cameras
  • the enforcement of infringements
  • funding and ownership issues 
  • technology options for dual red light/speed cameras to mitigate the risks of drivers speeding up into intersections.

How did the Ministry develop the Position Paper?

The Ministry of Transport developed the Position Paper on red light cameras in consultation with road safety partner agencies, including the Police, the NZ Transport Agency and local government authorities (represented by the TRAFINZ technical working group).

What research did the Ministry consider in developing a Position Paper on red light cameras?

In addition to the findings outlined in the Auckland Red Light Camera Project Evaluation Report, the Ministry compiled a literature review which considered the effectiveness of red light cameras in overseas jurisdictions.

Information from other agencies, including the Police, the NZ Transport Agency, and Local Government NZ was also used.

What does the Position Paper contain?

The Red Light Camera Position Paper states that red light cameras are a useful road safety tool and should form part of a Safe System approach where all effective interventions are considered to improve intersection safety.

A site selection methodology has been developed to ensure red light cameras are only implemented when they are likely to be the best safety tool to enable the best safety outcome.

The methodology is based on the identification of sites where there is an established crash record arising from red light running behaviour, or where there is a significant risk of fatal or serious casualties.  The site selection methodology will be reviewed and refined by the NZ Transport Agency to ensure red light cameras are only implemented when they are the best safety tool for the intersection.

The Position Paper notes the availability of wireless cameras that use radar technology. The Position Paper promotes the use of this technology over what is currently being used, as it will reduce the capital costs of camera installation and the operational costs of data collection and processing. The Position Paper also notes the availability of dual red light/speed cameras that could be used to mitigate the risk of drivers speeding up into intersections.

The current ownership, funding and revenue arrangements for red light cameras will remain in place, but this could change as work is completed under the Safer Journeys Action Plan 2013-15.

Does the Position Paper make recommendations on where red light cameras should be installed?

No. The Ministry of Transport commissioned the preparation of a site selection methodology to identify intersections that could benefit from a red light camera. The methodology is referenced in the Position Paper and it will provide guidance on appropriate site selection.

The methodology is based on the identification of sites with an established crash record caused by red light running. This does not mean, however, that a red light camera is the most effective treatment to improve safety. An intersection audit must be completed before a red light camera is installed. This will ensure all options to improve safety outcomes have been considered.

In addition, the NZ Transport Agency will review and refine the site selection methodology to ensure red light cameras are only implemented when they are the best safety tool for the intersection. Before any amendments to the site selection methodology are made the NZ Transport Agency will engage with road controlling authorities.

Who applies the site selection criteria?

Road controlling authorities can investigate high risk intersections (using the site selection criteria) they consider might be suitable for a red light camera. Road controlling authorities can advise the Police and the NZ Transport Agency of the results of the investigations.

The site selection methodology must be used before funding from the National Land Transport Programme will be considered.

How many red light cameras will there be?

Red light cameras should only be used at high risk intersection where they are the best safety tool to enable the best safety outcome. The crash statistics show that red light running casualties are primarily an issue for main urban areas, with the majority of casualties occurring in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin (see table below).

Initial results from the site selection methodology indicate that in Auckland between 12-14 sites may be appropriate for the implementation of a red light camera. Given that red light running is a contributing factor in 46 percent of casualties in Auckland, nationwide there may be between 26-30 signalised intersections where red light cameras are the most appropriate measures to address red light running behaviour. However, these sites will require an on-site intersection audit to determine whether they are is suitable for a red light camera, and if any other intervention would be more effective.

Local BodyFatalSeriousMinor
Whangarei 0 1 15
Auckland 3 55 692
Waikato 0 0 1
Hamilton 1 10 48
Tauranga 1 36 
Hastings 11 
Napier  17 
New Plymouth 20 
Palmerston North  0 2 28
Horowhenua 0 0 1
Kapiti Coast 0 1 1
Porirua 0 0 2
Upper Hutt 0 0 3
Lower Hutt 0 0 2
Wellington 1 11 90
Tasman 0 0 3
Nelson 0 0 7
Christchurch 3 61 351
Selwyn 0 0 0
Ashburton 0 1 1
Timaru 0 1 7
Waitaki 0 0 1
Dunedin 0 13 88
Invercargill 2 1 28
Total 11 169 1466

What type of red light cameras will be used in the future?

It is the preference of government road safety agencies that future investment in red light cameras will be in models which function wirelessly and use radar technology.

Cameras which function wirelessly allow information captured to be sent wirelessly to the Police. This eliminates the need for manual collection of data from the site. The radar technology also removes the need to install sensors in the road surface.

The Auckland Trial used cameras which require the physical collection of information from the camera site and the installation of sensors (or loops) in the road surface to detect red light running.

When are we going to take action on red light running?

Between 2008-2012 Auckland experienced the largest number of casualties where red light running was a contributing factor. Although there are already red light cameras in Auckland, the Police will work with Auckland Transport to increase the number of intersections covered by red light cameras. In addition, Auckland transport will be running an education campaign to deter red light running.

Wireless and radar based cameras will become available once Police have updated their IT framework. This is a substantial IT change and, while it is a priority for the Police and the NZ Transport Agency, it will take some time. However, there is an expectation that the first radar/wireless cameras will be in operation by the end of 2014, with the full digital upgrade to be completed in 2015.

Can red light cameras be combined with speed cameras?

Yes - cameras are available that combine both red light and speed functions. These may be considered for sites where both red light running and speeding on the roads approaching the intersection in question create significant safety risks. The site selection criteria for both red light and speed cameras would need to be satisfied.

Why should we not use the old red light camera technology?

We will be using the existing cameras at an increased number of sites in Auckland, but the old technology is more expensive and less cost effective than the new technology. The current camera model (which requires loops in the road surface and manual collection of data) is in comparison an inefficient and a relatively costly investment.

Using red light cameras which function wirelessly and use radar technology has several benefits:

  • information captured by the red light camera can be sent directly to the Police - this eliminates the need for the physical collection of data
  • the Police would be notified of any breakdown or vandalism which may require repair
  • physical sensors would not be needed in the road surface
  • dual red light/speed cameras will mitigate the risks of drivers speeding up into intersections

How much does a red light camera cost?

The cost of a red light camera varies depending on the type of technology used. In the Auckland trial three cameras were purchased and rotated around 10 sites. The implementation cost of this trial was $620,000.

Who ensures red light cameras are accurate?

The Police calibrate and certify all safety cameras, such as red light cameras and speed cameras before infringements can be issued.

The Auckland Red Light Camera Project Evaluation Report indicates a positive benefit cost ratio. Does this mean red light cameras should now be installed elsewhere?

No. The analysis indicates there are safety benefits and that red light cameras may be a valuable road safety tool when used appropriately.  There has to be confidence that red light cameras would be effective and provide value for money.

International research on red light cameras shows they are effective when used in the appropriate locations, such as high risk intersections.

What is the infringement for failing to stop at a red light?

Anyone running a red light can incur an infringement fee of $150, whether detected by a red light camera or a police officer.

What happens to the infringement fees from red light cameras?

Infringement fees collected by Police from red light camera offences go into the government’s consolidated fund like any other infringement fee collected by Police. Neither the Police nor local authorities receive any money from red light infringements.

Who pays for installing and operating red light cameras?

In the Auckland trial, the cameras and installation was jointly funded by the road controlling authority and the National Land Transport Fund. The Police, through the Road Policing Programme, met the on-site device calibration, data collection and infringement processing costs.

These arrangements will continue for the existing cameras as long as investment in red light cameras is undertaken in a coordinated approach to produce the best safety outcomes for New Zealand. These arrangements could change as work is completed under the Second Safer Journeys Action Plan. Road safety partners will be considering how to enhance automated enforcement. This work may result in recommendations to change the ownership, operation and funding of automated enforcement technologies (including red light cameras).