21,000 Hamilton drivers were caught by red light cameras in 2019 — here's where

More than 20,000 times last year cameras flashed at intersections across Hamilton, catching vehicles running red lights and at racking up more than a million dollars for the city.

The city says the cameras are aimed at making Hamilton safer, not raking in cash

A red light camera at the corner of James Street North and Cannon Street East in Hamilton is shown on Feb. 11, 2020. (Dan Taekema)

More than 20,000 times last year cameras flashed at intersections across Hamilton, catching vehicles running red lights and racking up more than a million dollars in fines for the city.

Statistics provided obtained from the city show a total of 21,644 violations were recorded in Hamilton last year.

It's the latest in a steady rise that saw 18,435 recorded in 2018, 16,134 the year before and the 14,167 tallied in 2016, according to a report received by the general issues committee last week.

Those tickets add up to about $1.5 million annually, and the city plans to keep adding more cameras at a rate of about five each year, said Mike Field, manager of transportation operations for the city.

So what intersections are hot stops for red light tickets in Hamilton?

Here's a look at the top five intersections and the number of tickets handed out at each:

Check out the five Hamilton red light cameras that recorded the most violations in 2019. (CBC News Graphics)

Tops is the camera at King St. W and Dundurn St. N. which catches westbound traffic heading out of the city centre to Highway 403 or west end neighbourhoods.

Field said the top three locations last year have been consistent hotspots for tickets, noting the numbers they pull have been "relatively stable since [cameras] went in."

Rounding out the top ten are Hess Street and York Boulevard with 1,114, Main and Wellington streets at 1110, Brantdale Avenue and Upper James Street with 999, Cannon Street and Kenilworth Avenue at 841 and Main and Bay streets where 747 were recorded.

Running a red light and getting caught on camera will cost you $325. The set fine is $260 which is collected by the municipality, along with a $60 victim surcharge and a $5 court cost. However, the ticket doesn't result in any demerit points. 

The city currently has cameras operating around the clock at 34 locations. Field said the steady rise in the number of tickets issued is tied to the fact the city keeps installing more cameras.

Other factors including proximity to other major roadways, such as the 403, and overall volume are what staff credit with the number of tickets issued by each particular camera.

When a new camera goes in the city tends to see a spike in violations, said Field. But that statistic tends to drop as people get used to it being there.

City staff say the cameras only go off if someone has entered an intersection when the light was fully red. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

He described the cameras as an "absolute" thing that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for excuses.

"The way the cameras function, generally speaking if you're getting caught by that camera you have gone through a red light."

Of course it is possible something like icy road conditions caused a car to end up in an intersection after the light turned. In that case, people either won't get a ticket to begin with, or have the option of challenging their ticket in court.

What can you do if you're caught on camera?

Which raises of the question of what legal options someone has after they receive a red light ticket in the mail.

Dan Monson, a paralegal at X-Copper's Hamilton branch, said he fields two or three questions about red light cameras every week. He tells callers to think of them "like a big parking ticket."

The firm, which represents people facing things like traffic or speeding tickets, typically doesn't fight red light camera violations because regardless of who was driving, the ticket goes to the registered owner of the vehicle.

"At the end of the day there's really no excuse," Monson said, explaining the courts don't have to prove why someone drove through a red, just that they did.

One thing drivers can do is meet with a prosecutor, who the paralegal said will drop $125 off the ticket more often than not.

Red light camera tickets go to the owner of a vehicle, regardless of who was driving. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

While the cameras can seem annoying, Monson said he believes they do help deter drivers from trying to beat lights.

Ultimately his advice is simple — the best way not to get a ticket is not to run red lights.

"Do your research find out where they are in city and do your best to not run through them. Ensure you drive the speed limit and can stop before light."

Even though the city brings in millions of dollars through red light tickets every year, Field said the main goal of the cameras isn't making money.

The whole purpose of red light cameras is "to increase safety within the city of Hamilton and really focus in on and reduce ... right-angle collisions, which are the most serious and most violent types of collisions, resulting in a very high percentage of injuries and fatalities."

A lesson learned

He said locations for cameras also aren't decided based on monetary possibilities.

"The financial outcomes are secondary," Field maintained. "Safety is the primary driver."

Collision data shows the average rate of right-angle collisions and injury or fatal collisions at intersections drops by 53 per cent and 69 per cent respectively when you compare statistics from three years before a camera was installed to three years after its in place, according to the operations manager.

"It's pretty striking," said Field.

He added that from the beginning of the program, the city's mandate has been to re-invest all the money it pulls in through the cameras back into road safety.

As for what drivers should take away from a ticket?

"Hopefully it's a lesson learned if you do get one."


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