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From Preparation to Action: Launching Your Red-light Enforcement Program

The path to a successful photo enforcement launch requires public education and roadway optimization before the installation phase. This preliminary work streamlines the implementation process, helping cities get red-light enforcement programs off the ground – and start saving lives – much more quickly.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provided a checklist to guide cities through the early stages of a red-light enforcement program, along with implementation and long-term activities to sustain the program. We broke down the first steps in a previous blog post. Now, we’re sharing best practices for turning that groundwork into an operational program.

Develop an online presence - Ensure the city website has a page with details about the red-light program, including instructions for how to pay or dispute citations. Provide contact information where residents can ask questions about the program.

Additionally, ramp up posts on city social media accounts. Provide program information, including camera locations and key dates, and drive followers to the city website for more information.

Hold a kickoff event – Invite community members to a public forum where they can learn more about the red-light enforcement program. Introduce advisory committee members, answer questions about the red-light program and explain how it fits into the city’s long-term efforts to improve public safety.

Install the systems – With the guidance of your photo enforcement vendor, install your red-light cameras at the chosen intersections. Perform tests to ensure the cameras are working properly and that all data is delivered to law enforcement for review. Additionally, install visible signage to inform drivers that the intersection is photo enforced.

During this stage, develop and test an emergency action plan to effectively handle system malfunctions and other issues.

Start with a warning period – Determine an acceptable timeframe to allow the public to adjust to the cameras once they are activated. For example, some cities choose to implement a 30-day warning period in which no citations are mailed – instead, drivers receive a warning notice in the mail explaining the incident and future consequences. Work with local media to promote the start of the warning period via a press release.

The warning period’s purpose is two-fold. It gives the public an opportunity to get used to photo enforcement, and it also allows the city to work out any remaining kinks in the technology, incident review and citation issuance. During this time, work to streamline the citation process, minimizing the number of days between violation and warning issuance.

Launch your red-light program – At the end of the warning period, distribute another press release announcing the official launch of the program. Reiterate the locations of cameras and explain the consequences of a violation, including fees, effects on the driver’s record and procedures for contesting a citation.

If violation funds accumulate in excess of program costs, consider allocating the money to complementary public safety initiatives.

Following these steps will ensure you have done your due diligence to prepare the community and city officials for the launch of an important tool that can help save lives for years to come.