What Every Motorist Should Know About Red-Light Cameras


Collisions that result from running red-lights at traffic intersections can often cause severe injuries and even death.

According to former Minister of Transport, Mr. David Campbell, “Speeding through a red light is one of the most dangerous things you can do on our roads and the consequences for yourself and innocent motorists could be deadly”.

The NSW transport started using red-light cameras as early as the 1980s to catch motorists who commit red-light offenses. In 2009, alarmed by the steep increase in traffic accidents, the NSW government upgraded and replaced the “wet-film” cameras with digital cameras.

Currently, there are about 180 intersections in New South Wales (NSW) with a red-light speed camera. That number will soon rise to 200 intersections, according to the NSW Centre for Road Safety.

What are Red-light Cameras?

Red-light cameras are an automated form of traffic enforcement tool to decrease the number of red-light running violations. Also called “safety cameras”, they take a picture of the vehicle that ran a red light. Some red-light cameras can also serve as speed cameras, in which case, motorists can also be charged for speeding if they exceed the speed limit at the intersection.

In an effort to enhance road safety and reduce the rates of traffic accidents, more red-light cameras are being installed at intersections that are identified as having a high crash risk. Hence, road intersections that have a long history of accidents or the potential for serious crashes will be outfitted with the cameras as an effective deterrence against red-light and speeding offenses.

How do Red-light cameras operate?

Red-light cameras operate on an automated system, which means it runs daily for 24 hours. These cameras can detect and record the offending vehicle at any time, regardless of the traffic light color.

A red-light offense is committed when both sets of the wheels of the vehicle cross the white stop line. Sensors under the road, just before the white stop line, are installed with a timer that triggers the camera. The camera will immediately take two photos in quick succession of the rear of the vehicle.

This digital photograph is evidence; it contains the license plate of the vehicle, the exact date and time of the offense, the location, the speed the car was traveling at, the speed limit that applies, and the direction it was heading towards to.

If it was an amber light or has changed to red while you crossed the white stop line, most of the time, the camera will not take a picture.

Where are Red-light cameras located?

As previously mentioned, the NSW government aims to install and operate red-light cameras at 200 intersections across the state. There are currently 191 cameras at 171 intersections. All locations of red-light cameras can be found on the Centre for Road Safety website. Furthermore, all redlight cameras are signposted; an image appears along with the speed limit and a warning “RED-LIGHT CAMERA AHEAD”.

What happens if I get caught on camera?

According to Regulation 56 of the Road Rules 2014, it is an offense to run a red light. You will incur a penalty fine of $488 and three demerit points. The penalty is heavier in school zones; if the incident takes place during school hours, the offender will have to pay a fine of $561 and incur 4 demerit points.

All images taken by red-light cameras are first reviewed by Revenue NSW who will ascertain that the motorist has crossed the white stop line on a red light.

The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will then post a penalty notice to the registered address of the offender’s vehicle. Thus, it is essential that all motorists keep their personal details and information updated with the RMS as offenders may be penalized for late payment.

The fines are then handled by the Revenue NSW. Go to their website to check all the details of your alleged speeding or red-light offense and download the photos.

Revenue NSW collects all the fines and the money is directed to the Community Road Safety Fund. The additional financial support helps to fund road safety initiatives such as engineering works and enhanced enforcement by the police. More campaigns can also be organized to raise public awareness about road safety.

How effective are Red light Cameras?

With 191 cameras at 171 intersections, according to the Centre of Road Safety Speed Camera Programs: 2017 Annual Review, there has been an overall fall in fatal and injury crashes in the red-light speed camera locations, as compared to the five year period before the installation.

There has been a stunning 54 percent reduction in fatalities, along with a 35 percent fall in serious injury, and a 49 percent fall in pedestrian casualties.

However, the review does not account for all 171 camera locations. Not all cameras have been in operation for five years, hence, the review only accounts for 91 camera locations.

What happens if I wasn’t the driver?

If you were not the driver at the period of the offense, you have to complete the statutory declaration form that is provided with the penalty notice. Fill out the name and the details of the driver and forward it to the NSW Revenue for processing.

Please take note that you should not provide false information as penalties imposed are worse than running a red light.

What if you want to dispute the allegation?

If you think the find was issued unjustly, you can request a review from the SDRO. It is not impossible to challenge the penalty; red light cameras are not always accurate. There have been cases of malfunctioning red-light cameras. In Geelong, Australia, a red-light camera awarded fines incorrectly to motorists for two years. The amber light was supposed to last for four seconds, however, it switched to red in three and a half seconds. Over 2 million dollars had to be refunded.


If needed, you can also take the matter to court to fight your case. It is important to hire a competent traffic lawyer who will help you navigate the tricky and complicated legal system. With the legal expertise of a lawyer, loss of license can be circumvented by pleading for leniency and penalty charges can be reduced.

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