The ABC11 I-Team looks at Raleigh red light cameras

Critics say car owners aren't told they can challenge tickets if they weren't driving.
February 27, 2014 2:57:13 PM PST
If your car is caught on camera running a red light in Raleigh, you - as the car owner - get a ticket. It shows you it was your car and gives you an outline of your options: pay it, appeal it, or give up the person who was driving.

What it doesn't tell you is there's another option.

"If you weren't driving at the time and location of the citation, you're not liable and the citation is void," explained red light opponent Brian Ceccarelli. "You just send an affidavit to the mayor saying 'I wasn't driving at the time and location of the citation' and that's it."

Ceccarelli is what you might call an anti-red light camera crusader. He led the charge that ultimately led to Cary shutting down its program. He showed us the state law and the city ordinance that spell out that there are four options for vehicle owners who weren't behind the wheel.

All they have to do is send the city a notarized statement that the person who received the citation was not driving any vehicle at the time and place designated in the citation.

We caught up with Patricia Lynch as she was on her way to the company that runs the red light camera program - SafeLight.

Lynch says she'd just had hip surgery and it was a relative who ran the red while helping her out.

"So, I get the notice and I'm like 'Oh my gosh! I wasn't even driving at this time," she explained.

She says learned about that fourth option on Ceccarelli's website, redlightrobber.com, but says it should have been spelled out on the ticket.

"I mean, I wasn't driving, I don't want to make the person who was running my errands pay the ticket because they're helping me out and that fourth option, I would definitely use that," said Lynch.

Since Raleigh started the red light camera program back in 2003, it's netted more than $8 million. Eleven percent goes to schools, 8 percent to the city, and 81 percent to SafeLight - the company that runs the program.

To Ceccarelli, the reason that fourth option isn't on the citation is clear as day.

"It's always about money," he said.

We took our ABC11 cameras with Lynch to SafeLight and were turned away. So, we went with Lynch and Ceccarelli to the city and again, we were turned away.

We went to Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who told us the website laid out all four options, but we haven't found a website that does that.

In fact, the city's own website says vehicle owners have to show someone else was driving to get out of the ticket.  Now, we asked an attorney for the city about that and were directed to a little line that says the "city will accept affidavits as allowed by law."  But, it doesn't tell you what the law says or even how to find it.  For Lynch, that's a serious omission.

"I think it's fraud not to tell me I have another option, to only give me the ones that you want me to use," she said.

The city attorney wouldn't weigh in on the allegation of fraud, but the mayor did comment on the citations.

"I think that if people get a notice in the mail, they should have all their options and, you know, I really don't know why Safe Light chose to interpret our ordinance that way for this piece of paper, but I think we need to look into it," she said.

Mayor McFarlane says she's telling the city attorney to weigh in directly on whether the citations need to change.

As for SafeLight, we've reached out to them and have not heard back.

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