RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Drive around the city of Raleigh and you may notice extra technology at some intersections—red light cameras.

You can find them at dozens of intersections around town.

“I’m a little indifferent about them,” said one driver, Alex Shipman.

Another, Jimmy Santos, notices them too every time he drives around the city.

“I like it and recommend to the government to increase it everywhere,” said Santos. 

City of Raleigh Traffic Safety Engineer, Todd Edwards, says the purpose is to enforce one of the basic rules of the road—when you approach a traffic light at an intersection, red means stop—however, Edwards says not everyone obeys.

In the last three years, the City of Raleigh says it has issued over 96,000 citations. 

The City of Fayetteville is also working to stop red-light runners. 

Public Services Assistant Director, Lee Jernigan says from July 2015 to October 2021, issued 167,000 citations at Fayetteville intersections with red-light cameras.

“It’s where your highest traffic volumes occur. In Fayetteville, that’s along the Skibo Road corridor with US-41 bypass Skibo road around Cross Creek Mall in that area. It carries 55 to 65,000 cars a day,” said Jernigan. 

So, what determines a red-light camera citation? 

For the City of Raleigh’s 25 cameras, Edwards says they only snap a picture when a vehicle passes the white line about a half-second into the red light. 

The camera then records the date, time, and elapsed time since the beginning of the red signal in addition to the vehicle’s speed. All the data collected gets sent to the company that operates the safelight camera. 

“Our vendor reviews the citations initially, and so they kind of throw out ones where the light’s really green or where someone stops halfway into the intersection, or sometimes they’ll throw out the right on reds,” said Edwards.

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If the person is found in ​violation, it’s a $50 fine in Raleigh. In Fayetteville, that fine will cost you $100.

The money collected from the cameras goes to the local school districts. 

Fayetteville has given Cumberland County Schools over $12 million in the last 6 years. 

“Pre-COVID we were riding, I think our last check was $600,000 to the Wake County Public Schools,” said Edwards.

Both areas say the purpose of these cameras is not necessarily to prevent all crashes, but hopefully the deadly ones, T-bones. 

“We did a white paper a couple years back—an engineering firm did it. And it was like a 52 percent decrease in angle crashes across the program,” said Edwards. “On the flip side, there’s a 32 percent chance or 30 percent increase of rear ends. So, you know, those just come with people are stopping because they realize it’s a red light, and they don’t want to go through. But rear ends aren’t as high on the injury list. Typically, it’s angle crashes.”

The traffic engineer’s best piece of advice for drivers is: “Don’t run red lights, and you won’t be faced with, at the minimum, you won’t be faced with a $100 fine but you likely would not be faced with a potential T-bone accident,” said Jernigan.

We did a little more digging and found that in Raleigh while they have issued more than 96,000 citations, 29 percent of them have gone unpaid. The City of Raleigh says 90 percent of the people who get red light camera tickets do not get a second one.

In Fayetteville, out of more than 94,000 citations, 38 percent have gone unpaid in the last three years.