Red Light Cameras: Who Pays, What Could They Prove?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - You've heard Knoxville Police tell you how successful seven cameras have been at catching, and stopping drivers from running red lights, but do the rules apply equally, to everybody caught?

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd looks at what happens when the "gotcha" cam catches police, firefighters, and emergency vehicles.

The answer depends on whether they're on the job, but those pictures could reveal more than your failure to stop.

"The cameras are there to get violations running a red light," says KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

As in everybody.

But just because Knoxville's red light cameras never blink doesn't mean every get brings a ticket.

"If the lights are on, that incident is rejected, because it's obvious they're on an emergency call and en route to a scene," DeBusk says.

Knoxville police say that's why they've thrown out more than 200 on-camera gotchas, but no lights, and no sirens have bought tickets
For 9 Knoxville Police officers, 6 Knox County Sheriff's officers and four Rural Metro ambulance crews.

And the $50 fine?

"Comes out of his own pocket," says Tim Suter, Rural Metro Operations Director.

Rural Metro's put it in writing.

Not only will the driver have to pay up, the whole ambulance crew will have to kick in if nobody fesses up to being behind the wheel.

"We offer them the option of a payroll deduction or they can write a check, whatever they prefer," Suter says.

In any case, Operations Director Tim Suder says, repeat problems could buy a pink slip.

One factor that hasn't figured in yet, could well be a smoking gun. These cameras also record how fast you're going when you blow through.

Rural Metro's being sued for millions after a wreck that killed three people three summers ago.

Victims' families claim an ambulance driver was negligent and broke traffic laws, though witnesses say she was running lights and sirens.

We haven't asked Rural Metro to comment on specific, pending lawsuits, but "If we came across one that had excessive speed, that may be looked at more harshly," Suter says.

Knoxville Police doubt their department will have to worry much about second offenders.

"If they violate the law and they pay it one time, we think that's all it's going to take," DeBusk says.

Red-light cameras weren't around in the crash we cited.

But imagine having such evidence in future crash investigations.

Under Tennessee law, you can lose points on your license if an officer catches you running a light, but not if a camera catches you.

Knoxville police say any officers caught, won't face extra discipline on top the fine.

Rural metro says it'll track red light camera tickets closely and too many slips, could mean a pink slip.


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