Red light cameras

Seeing Red

Guilty as charged.

Allow me to shed a little light into a dark and mysterious recess of Nassau County, NY.

The notice came in the mail informing us that we drove through a red light and were captured on camera.

Sure enough, Cheryl’s silver Prius was in the photo, and video, going through a red light on Long Beach Rd at Windsor Pkwy, in Oceanside, NY. The fine was $50, plus the driver responsibility fee (really, it said that) was $45, and the public safety fee $55, for a total of $150.

But we didn’t know who was driving, Cheryl, or this humble, perhaps even angelic writer you’ve come to know and love.

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We both use her car most of the time as we only have one spot in our condo’s garage and my Prius is parked in the street. So for travel and return parking, it’s best to use the garage-parked car.

Now it would have been easier to figure out who was driving if we were notified promptly, say within a week or so of the violation, but we weren’t. The infraction occurred on Sept. 28th and we received the notice Nov. 20th, almost two months later. We really share the cost of the fine, regardless of who was driving (even if I’m sure it WAS Cheryl). But the notice should come in accordance with the constitution’s demand for speedy justice, right?

I called the number on the notice to find out if there was a time limit for legal notice. The clerk who answered said it can take three to five weeks due to a backlog. She didn’t know if there was a time limit to get the notice to the violators.

I searched the internet and could find no limits on a legal notice of violation. I asked an attorney who attends the same Rec Center as I do, he didn’t know either.

So for a hundred fifty bucks, we thought it worthwhile to go down to the Traffic Court at 16 Cooper St. Hempstead, NY.

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We had to be there at 9:00 am. By the way, failure to appear after declaring that one does want to contest the fine is $75 on top of the $150.

I dropped Cheryl off at the entrance then proceeded to the municipal parking garage immediately in front of the entrance. I found a spot, then went to the two meters at the entrance of the lot for payment. But one of the meters was broken and there was a long line at the only working meter. (You are aware, of course, that one can get a parking ticket while waiting in line to pay for the spot.)

IMG_0584.JPGThe sign said cash only, no change, no refunds.

I only had twenties and a five. I knew I did have some quarters in the car that was now in the lot but I didn’t want to return to the car and lose my spot in line. So at fifty cents per hour, I decided to put the whole five bucks in and pay for ten hours for what would likely be at most a four-hour ordeal.

But when I got to the motley meter it wouldn’t take my five dollar bill. It didn’t reject it, it just wouldn’t allow the bill to be inserted at all. So one machine, out of order the other, in semi-working order…it did take change.

I announced to the long line of folks behind me who were patiently awaiting my attempts at putting the five in, “I have to go back to my car for some quarters.”

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A fiver refused on this bald buttoned machine

When I got back to the line I was allowed in front, (my gray hair possibly gaining me some pity.) The quarters worked and I paid for only the four hours I needed.


One has to use due diligence to enter the numbers of one’s parking spot because the buttons on the machine have long been worn off…completely. You have to count buttons to see where number seven should be and zero, etc. You can only wonder how much traffic and parking fine money the county has collected at this Traffic and Parking Violations Agency to cause such wear on these now numberless buttons. But I was finally able to pay for four hours.

I went into the lobby and followed the announced command to the crowd, “Take everything out of your pockets before you come up here,” and went through the metal detector and body-scan-by-wand. After that, there was another long line. It was a cordoned meander of about forty or fifty people. They were awaiting seating in the courtroom.

But I saw Cheryl seated in the courtroom and when she waved to me I walked in without being ordered to get in line.

Seated next to her I watched a court prosecutor/Clerk? in front of the court well. He was interviewing offenders one at a time, explaining the offenses and the violator’s options. driving

These violations were apparently the more serious and costly than our mere red light $150 offenses. From the bits of sounds from one conversation, it was texting while driving.  A deal of some kind seemed to be had.

(I intended to inform you faithful readers here about the hands-free fine schedule and options but sadly, it’s a mystery. There was a sign in court that spoke of mobile phone violations: $500 plus five points on your license. I did try to get more detail on it but several internet searches and multiple calls to the court and the Nassau County Press office proved unsuccessful. The Nassau County gov. website says you must appear See viol. 1225 C2A and 1225 DI. No mention anywhere about $500 or points.  I guess you’ll have to find out the hard way. Apparently, it’s based on your past record. But again, no disclosure by the court.)

Eventually, a clerk from a side entry called Cheryl’s name and we both approached her. In the nearby hallway, we explained our complaint about the almost two-month delay in being notified.

The clerk was very patient and thorough. However, she said that nothing could be done in our case because there is an “infinite” amount of time to notify the offender. “We’re dealing with violations all the way back to Thanksgiving now,” she said. I stood there thinking about the overflowing county coffers with such a happy backlog of incoming cash.

We said to the clerk that it was unfair to notify us so late. She said it was the law. She said they had been previously constrained to a 99-day time limit but because of the backlog it was changed to “infinity.”  She did say we could go before the judge and make our case but, “it is the law.” I asked her, “In your experience has anyone having circumstances such as ours ever been successful with the judge?” She said, “No.”

I said, “If we had known you had an infinite amount of time to notify violators we wouldn’t have bothered coming down here.” I told her that we called the number on the notification letter and what we were told. She said if we called the court we would have found out about…infinity. I said, “But there was no number for the court.” I also said, “Why don’t they put the infinity-by-law statute they enjoy on the notice so people, like us, won’t come down needlessly. She said she’d make that suggestion. I’m so happy.

While we were at it we also asked about turn-on-red-without-a full-stop violations. We had heard that one must come to a full stop for four seconds or you will get a summons. She said there is no time demand for the stop. But “You must come to a full stop.” She said they view the videos carefully and especially scrutinize hubcaps and the shadows behind the car for movement to determine if a full stop was made. If there is even the slightest movement, that is not a full stop and it is a violation. Fool that I am, I thought precision such as this was reserved for heart surgery and rocketry. (This minutia of movement is all in the interest of public safety of course. It’s not about ca$h.) The clerk said some people may come to a stop and count to four or five for there own reasons but the video only needs to show a full stop, no time amount for the stop is needed.

We used the restrooms before we proceeded to pay. Cheryl took a photo of the sink in the Ladies. Not much refurbishing diligence to be found there, she did say it was clean:

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We got on yet another line. There were two windows: one said, CASHIER, the other, INfORMATION. But nobody was at the information window. When one man tried to get information from the lone window he was told to get in line. He said, “I only want to ask a question”, he was told again, “Get in line.”

The woman behind us was very alert to attempted line cutting, she yelled ahead again and again, “Excuse me, Honey, there’s a line, there’s a line.” Some people seemed very adept at this whole process. I’m sure it puts a smile on many faces of Nassau County officials who love return customers.

When we got near the cashier window I sidestepped to it, Seinfeld-Soup-Nazi style and got away with the sarcasm. As a final, and admittedly futile attempt for some consideration, I said to the clerk, “Is there anything that can be done for the amount to pay, after all, it took two months for notification on this.” She said, “You can’t pay less at this stage,  you can only pay more.”  Payment is by cash or check. Use of a credit card incurs another two dollar charge.

Cheryl noticed that the lady behind us, the “Excuse me, Honey, there’s a line…” lady, paid in cash, over a thousand dollars for some type of violation.

Driving the streets of Nassau County is like driving in a pinball money machine with the threat of paying many dollars for any lack of mindful attention. And they are doing a fine job collecting this pinball tax.  Sure, a fine is in order but when so much money is added to a relatively small fine…it’s just ridiculous.

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Where’s the justice?

Some shoppers with low income may be traveling considerable distances to save ten bucks on a pair of children’s shoes only to be fined a hundred and fifty bucks in the process. In some cases that could be two days take-home pay, while others, who get paid well, might work mere minutes for a hundred fifty bucks. Where’s the justice?

The big However:

Being mindful, due to the chance of paying hefty fines is good practice. But of course, mindful driving to avoid an accident is even more important.

Auto repair can easily run into the thousands, with soaring insurance premiums to definitely follow. Average repair costs by State:

And there is injury and death to consider.

On Long Island, over 300 motor vehicle deaths per year are recorded. The most deadly road, Rte 27, Sunrise Hway, with 69 deaths in a recent three year period:

All this kinda keeps those red light camera fines, to say nothing of texting and driving, in perspective…doesn’t it?


Acc 2 5x7 100.jpg

Then there’s seeing a different kind of red.


Be well,


shedding a little light wherethesundontshine





7 replies »

  1. It’s just life in NY. Ya get the good with the bad. A lot of this camera TAX is needed for the corruption in government. But cameras are unthinking robots. As I just wrote recently elsewhere: It’s about the judgment, discretion. Human tools that Police Officers routinely use every day. Cameras that microscopically scan for any minuscule movement removes judgment, discretion…and human prudence and wisdom.
    As always, thank you for your comment, Janet. We think of you often.


  2. Hello Lee – I HEAR YOU. I’ve been to the TPVA before and it is a headache to figure out where/how to park. This works in their favor because it becomes just easier to plead guilty. I got one of those right-turn-on-a-red-light tickets too. I did not know a full stop was required before turning right on a red especially when there isn’t an auto around for miles. They recently hiked the price of tickets up to make up for a fine they wanted to impose elsewhere but legally had to rescind. Enjoyed your post and especially your photos.


  3. Michele,

    The cameras remove common sense from enforcing road safety. Again, as I said before, it’s about judgment. If there were no “autos around for miles” as you say, of course, it’s reasonable to slow to an almost stop before proceeding. No cop, well almost no cop, would give you a ticket in such circumstances.

    And in another circumstance, should traffic be heavy, and someone did come to a full stop but dangerously nosed into traffic, they should get a ticket. Judgement, discretion, cameras lack that but they don’t lack the incoming TAX money they produce. Thank you for your comment.

    Be well,


    • Can’t fight it. The electronic windfall is too delightful for those watching the till. Next will be electronic speeding traps. I hear they have them in Texas. Be well also. Michele


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