18 Cities (Including Burien) Win Red Light Camera Class Action Lawsuit

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by Scott Schaefer

According to The Olympian, on Tuesday (March 2), a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging that 18 Washington cities, including Burien, were charging too much for traffic violations caught by red light cameras.

This means that all Washington state cities with red light cameras will be able to continue charging their current fines, many of which are set at $101 and above.

The “order of dismissal” was issued by U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour in Seattle, and this ends a lawsuit in which more than 40 drivers claimed that fines issued from red light cameras exceeded the amount intended by state law.

As we’ve previously reported, attorneys for the plaintiffs were seeking class-action status over a 2005 law that says traffic-camera fines “shall not exceed the amount of the fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction,” according to the complaint.

Burien has five red light cameras, which have been up and running since last March, and according to a city e-newsletter, were averaging “around 540 infractions per month” back in October 2009 – equaling a projected gross of over $654,000 in its first year of operation.

Burien currently sends out a $101 fine for red light infractions, with five cameras operating at these three intersections (see map below):

  • 1st Avenue South at SW 148th Street
  • 1st Avenue South at SW 152nd Street
  • 1st Avenue South at SW 160th Street

View Red Light Cameras in Burien WA in a larger map

The camera earning the most money currently is the westbound one at SW 148th Street and 1st Ave South, which (as of Oct. 2009) generated about 35% of the total infractions, or 189 per month (just over 6 per day), equals to a monthly gross of $19,089 – or more than $229,000 annually, which on its own surpasses the original citywide $200k projection.

The cameras operate 24 hours a day and capture still photos and video of every vehicle that runs a red light at the intersection. After being processed by manufacturer RedFlex, the videos are accessed by Burien police through a website, where they are analyzed by an officer who decides whether or not to send out a ticket.

Other cities named in the lawsuit included:

  • Auburn
  • Bellevue
  • Bonney Lake
  • Bremerton
  • Federal Way
  • Fife
  • Issaquah
  • Lacey
  • Lake Forest Park
  • Lakewood
  • Lynnwood
  • Puyallup
  • Renton
  • SeaTac
  • Seattle
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma

So, to all your speeders out there – don’t expect any reduction in red light camera fines.

And to the City of Burien (and all other cities with these device$) – let’s hope you put the massive revenues from this semi-automatic “cash cow” to good use during these economic times.


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6 Responses to “18 Cities (Including Burien) Win Red Light Camera Class Action Lawsuit”
  1. amy says:

    I like the point made at the end of the post “let’s hope you put the massive revenues from this semi-automatic “cash cow” to good use during these economic times.” Wish there was some way of tracking that one!

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  2. Kai J. says:

    Yeah, the fine amounts may well be legal, but the Red Light Camera at 1st Ave and 160th clearly violates Washington State law! Desperate Burien in it’s search for cash cows turned a blind-eye to the statute that mandates that the camera installations ONLY be where TWO arterials intersect. Last time I looked at that intersection there were 4 arterials intersecting and the lights and signage indicate that as well. The City Council better put that money in a savings account as they may well have to return it all when they loose the next law suit.

    As for just how efective the cameras are now? When the light turns yellow I put ALL 400HP of my 3-Ton SUV to work to get across the intersection so you better not be in my way.

    Still young and living in Burien…

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    • SD says:

      You might have something there about “5-Corners” being illegal! I wonder what the City of Burien’s position/stance is on this. Is it TWO arterials or “5-Corners” as we fondly refer to it?

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  3. tripC says:

    I can’t say that I liked the comment about gunning it across the intersection to avoid the light, but I can definitely relate. I often see other drivers racing to beat the lights, or braking at the last minute so to not risk it. This only sets off a domino effect that the drivers behind them just love. Does the city really think this type of driving, or these reactions are really helping the safety at these intersections, or is this really just about revenue? Here is an interesting article that give some great statistics on this topic.


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  4. Coverofnight says:

    I’d rather have someone gun it than poke along riding the brake waiting for the light to turn red. I always have to slow down to make sure that I don’t rear-end the idiot who doesn’t at least do the speed limit! The backups on 148th are incredible and just getting worse. If safety is a concern, simply program the lights to have an additional one or two second delay until they turn green to allow the occasional red light runner to get through. That would be too easy though, and not generate any revenue! We’re not all a bunch of morons as our public officials think we are; that we need regulating or we’ll just hurt ourselves. No, the politicians will leave these fines in place as an essential part of city revenue. Even if the voters want otherwise, they’ll not remove the cameras. Any Burien politician that voted for “Big Brother” needs to be voted out of office!

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  5. Greg Fox says:

    Rock on!
    Do the crime-then pay the fine.
    This has worked in other states and cities for years as a means to keep people from blowing thru lights (yellow does not mean shoot it sucker you can make it) and a means of generating income.
    All I can say is “it is about time.”

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