Drivers could get red light camera refunds

January 14, 2013 2:45:32 PM PST
The Town of Cary put the brakes on its controversial red-light camera program last summer, but a class-action lawsuit filed by critics of the program remains unresolved.

The case began in a Raleigh courtroom Monday.

When the red-light program first began, it was promoted as a safety measure.  Instead of having police officers constantly watching intersections, computer controlled cameras sensed when a vehicle went through a red light and snapped a picture of the license plate.

Drivers got a $50 fine in the mail. All but ten percent of the money collected went to the red light camera company. That remaining ten percent went to Wake County Schools not the Town of Cary.

But the cameras became a point of frustration when drivers said they were wrongly fined. Many said the tickets issued weren't legal because they didn't tell the whole story of what happened at the intersection.

One of those was Brian Ceccarelli, who got a ticket in November, 2009 on Cary Towne Boulevard. Ceccarelli - who has a physics degree - decided to fight based on his knowledge.

Monday, at the start of the class action lawsuit, he demonstrated some of Newton's law for the judge. He claimed, among other things, that the duration of the yellow light at the camera location on Cary Towne Boulevard was shorter than the duration at other nearby intersections.

"When I saw that flash in the rear view mirror I said, 'Man, certainly this duration of yellow light does not abide by Newton's Laws of Motion.'  And from there I wondered, 'What are the standards the NCDOT is using?'  And then from there I started to doing the research," said Ceccarelli.

Another part of the lawsuit involves drivers making left hand turns at intersections with cameras. Some said they waited in the intersection and turned after traffic cleared. But the light had turned red and they were issued a ticket.

If the Town of Cary loses the lawsuit, it may have to repay the $50 fines for more than 9,500 red-light camera tickets from certain intersections issued between December 2009 and last August.

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