QUESTION: This week’s question was prompted by a recent letter to the editor from Karla Hopkins of Mount Vernon and follow up letters and comments. Following a visit to Fife, Hopkins’ husband received a $124 photo enforcement ticket in the mail for an improper right turn. She went online to view a video of the violation.
“After watching the video several times, I called the Fife Photo Enforcement Customer Service Call Center and asked them to view the video and tell me exactly what he had done wrong,” Hopkins wrote. “He came to a full stop, his turn signal was on, he was not speeding, he did not run a red light and he stopped before the crosswalk.
“After they reviewed the video, they said, and this is a quote: ‘He did not complete the stop for 4.5 seconds.’”
Hopkins and other readers could not find any mention of a “4.5 second” rule in the law or the drivers’ guide. So, the question is whether there is such a standard, and if not, what exactly is the standard for a violation?
ANSWER: “There is no legal requirement for a vehicle to stop for 4.5 seconds,” said Sally Jacobsen, municipal court administrator for the City of Fife. “That information was a misstatement.”
The error came from a representative at the city-contracted call center, which screens questions and complaints about photo enforcement tickets, Jacobsen said. As soon as the mistake came to the city’s attention, they contacted the call center to make sure it wasn’t repeated, she said.
The operative state law (RCW 46.61.055), allows a right turn on red “after stopping,” but doesn’t give a minimum time that would constitute a complete stop.
In Fife, like other cities that use red light cameras, potential violations are screened by the camera vendor and the likely violations are forwarded to the city, said Police Chief Brad Blackburn.
“Each one is reviewed by an officer, who decides if there is a violation,” he said. The officer is looking for whether the vehicle made a complete stop and whether the stop occurred behind the stop bar.
Blackburn has not seen the video in question, but he says that sometimes the video isn’t as clear on a home computer as it is on the city’s hardware, so the violation may not be as apparent. Those who dispute their tickets can contest them in municipal court.
The City of Fife offers this FAQ on its website.
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