Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Yellow Lights
mmencius
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Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby mmencius » Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:16 pm

A few months ago, I was visiting my GF in Melbourne (not the CBD) and allegedly drove through a red light. I distinctly remember the camera flashing, and thinking to myself, "wow that orange light changed really quickly." I went back that night and recorded the light at the intersection. It did change quickly. At first to my naked eye it looked like 2 seconds, but then I slowed it down by a factor of 4 and observed very carefully that the orange light lasted exactly 3 seconds. Later I received a red light infringement notice for over $400 alleging that I had crossed the white light 0.5s after the orange light changed to red. I also noted that I had been driving on a medium incline when I went through the intersection.

Since then I've done some research.

1) Here is a report (http://cameracommissioner.vic.gov.au/wp ... issues.pdf) "Report of the road safety camera commissioner to the minister for police and emergency services." This deals with the exact topic of orange lights changing to red too quickly and says that at least one charge was dismissed in magistrate's court previously. This report says a) all Victorian lights should last at least 3s b) VicRoads bases the standard of yellow times in all traffic light phases on the Austroads Guide to Traffic Management Part 9: Traffic Operations.

2) In that guide (https://austroads.com.au/publications/t ... ations.pdf) I found Table G2 on page 232 of the document, page 244 of the pdf. This table indicates that for a medium downhill slope (at least 6% as in this case), the amber light should last at least 4s.

3) Enforcement of red light violations generally begin at 0.5s over.

4) These days, driving training teaches that a safe stopping distance is 3s during the day and 4s at night.

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This means that I was driving downhill at night, and according to both standard driving training and the guides set for the operation of lights, the orange light should've lasted 4s. However, it lasted exactly 3s. (After slowing down by a factor of 4 I have a video showing the orange light began at exactly 7s and ended at exactly 19s on the clock. As in, exactly once 7s began). If the orange light had lasted just 0.1s more, then I would have no longer been in the enforcement period of red light lateness. If it had lasted 3.5 or 4s, then I would have passed the white line while the light was still orange and everything would be fine.

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I have already submitted an internal review request. I was unable to upload a video file (the online form didn't let me) so I uploaded screenshots from the video showing that the orange light lasted 3s. And all the documents linked above. And a photo of the intersection incline. And a request that they contact me if they want to see the video, which I could not upload online. Today I received a form letter back with no reason to believe they even read my detailed arguments. I called them up to let them know that had not yet seen my video. They weren't helpful at all and said my only option was court.

So, now what? I live in Sydney. There's a pandemic out there. I occasionally visit my GF in Melbourne but don't want to fly to Melbourne specifically for a court hearing. What are my options now? How much are typical court costs? Do you think I have a good argument? Given the pandemic, can I access court online at this time? I can't find much information online about what happens next. Does anyone have any advice?

Finally, I was driving safely, I didn't put anyone in danger, I felt that going through the orange light was appropriate, etc. I was going downhill within the speed limit but I feel it would've been unsafe and difficult to rapidly stop.

EDIT: I was turning right. I have searched the forum and have seen that orange arrow times may indeed be as low as 3.0 seconds as there is an assumption that you will be approaching a turn at a slower speed. However, I have another detail, which is that I was driving *downhill*. This requires an additional period of deceleration and hence it makes sense that the time to pass through the light will be longer. Based on the guides I believe the length of time should be longer.

Gravy
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby Gravy » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:54 am

mmencius wrote:Do you think I have a good argument?
In a word; no. The yellow light display time argument has been raised many times on this forum and the response is always that Austroads manuals, VicRoads TEM, Camera Commissioner report, etc. don't make a shred of difference in court. And before you ask, no; the slope of the road doesn't change anything.

I would suggest reading this page on Sean's website as it answers several of your questions. If you really need to be acquitted, you should consider hiring a lawyer.

Hardy
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby Hardy » Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:08 am

turning right. Red arrow? If not, what was the speed zone?

mmencius
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby mmencius » Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:46 am

Gravy wrote:
mmencius wrote:Do you think I have a good argument?
In a word; no. The yellow light display time argument has been raised many times on this forum and the response is always that Austroads manuals, VicRoads TEM, Camera Commissioner report, etc. don't make a shred of difference in court. And before you ask, no; the slope of the road doesn't change anything.


Report 1) cites a guy called Gordon Bishop who won based on this exact reason. Why do you say times don't make a shred of difference?

Hardy wrote:turning right. Red arrow? If not, what was the speed zone?


Turning right on yellow/red arrow, 40 km/hr, downhill moderate incline.

Gravy
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby Gravy » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:42 pm

mmencius wrote:Report 1) cites a guy called Gordon Bishop who won based on this exact reason.
It doesn't say that. The report says he received an infringement notice for travelling through a red light, which was dismissed in the magistrate's court. It says Mr Bishop argued about the yellow light phase. It does not say the charge was dismissed due to his yellow light phase argument. And it certainly does not suggest that the argument succeeded on a literal reading of an engineering manual.

mmencius wrote:Why do you say times don't make a shred of difference?
I didn't write that. I wrote that engineering standards/manuals don't make a shred of difference in court. If I recall correctly (and I'm not a lawyer so I may be wrong about this) it's because they're inadmissible and/or irrelevant. They're effectively guides for designers and engineers; they're not legislative instruments like an act of parliament or regulations issued by a minister as authorised by an act (such as road rules). There is no law that requires anyone to strictly adhere to any words found in a VicRoads TEM, Austroads manual or commissioner's report.

Hardy
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby Hardy » Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:58 pm

I think your chances of winning this is greater than 50% if you want to do it properly, but I’m guessing you're not about to lose your licence so it is not worth spending money on a lawyer to defend it in court.

The offence is "entering an intersection against a red light". It is not "entering an intersection against a red light after a yellow light has been displayed for 3 seconds or more". There is no law that dictates the time of a yellow phase, so you can’t show a breach of a law when the phase is short. All you can show is non-compliance with a standard. It is not part of a prosecutor’s proof to adduce evidence that this standard has been complied with. I.e. the offence is proved without any regard to the standard. See also http://classic.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/s ... 9/233.html. It would be more useful if there were evidence that it is impossible to stop within the time available. Also in that report the Commissioner recommended fines not be waived for red arrow offences, because the vehicles need to slow down to do the turn.

Gravy
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Re: Received red light fine when amber light lasted shorter than it legally should have

Postby Gravy » Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:44 am

I've just read a bit more of the camera commissioner's report (linked in OP above). It's... err... not a very good document. For a few reasons.

Para 20 describes the 85th percentile speed - incorrectly:
Camera Commissioner wrote:The 85th percentile refers to the proportion of traffic that travels at or below the legal speed limit at the intersection.
That's not it at all. In fact, he has it backwards (in that he thinks the value represents a number of vehicles rather than a speed value). The 85th %ile speed is the speed at which 85% of vehicles are travelling at or below. It makes no reference to the speed limit and the proportion of vehicles is fixed at 85%. What the report describes is a something like a rate of compliance with the limit and it could not possibly refer to 85% of anything.

At least he gets this bit about right:
Camera Commissioner wrote:60. The fact that the traffic lights did not comply with the guidelines does not, however, mean that those drivers have not committed an offence. Road rule 57 of the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 specifically provide that it is an offence for a driver to fail to stop at a yellow traffic light if “the driver can stop safely before reaching the stop line”, therefore any driver entering an intersection against a yellow light is in breach of that road rule unless it was unsafe to stop.
This is why the report doesn't help you, mmencius. You can't cherry pick out of context.


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