Short Red-Light Camera Grace Period Leads To Ticket Refunds

Last week, Daniel Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer publicized the story of a local driver who was unjustly ticketed:

Mike Kochkodin didn’t think his car blew the traffic signal on Roosevelt Boulevard. But a few days after the white light flashed, a $100 ticket arrived by mail at his Central Pennsylvania home.


When the notice from the Philadelphia Parking Authority came, it gave instructions on how to view the three photos taken of the car: as it approached the intersection, midway through, then afterward as the rear license plate was visible.

The lawyer son, who’d gone to Penn and is also called Mike, noticed some small numbers displayed atop the photographs. He wasn’t sure what they meant, so he read some of the fine print on the red-light program’s Web site.

It described how when lights turn red at 10 intersections on the boulevard, sensors in the pavement trigger overhead cameras. But drivers are given a grace period. The cameras are supposed to wait one-third of a second before snapping.

Which made the younger Kochkodin wonder what the “0.2” meant in the first photo. He drove to the camera program’s office on Grant Avenue in the Northeast, and there he learned that the number meant the camera had snapped at 0.2 seconds, instead of at 0.33 seconds.

He scheduled a hearing. That took place Sept. 10 and didn’t last long. Case dismissed.

The elder Mike Kochkodin – “I never trusted these cameras from day one,” he says — asked the hearing officer what would happen to others who got caught by a too-quick camera. The officer, Kochkodin said, said he’d toss any others he saw.

Which leads to the question: Just how many people got snapped too soon?

As reports, at least 4390 people did:

A total of 4390 red light camera tickets, worth $439,000, will be refunded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after a ticket challenge revealed that they were improperly issued. The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper uncovered the error while investigating the case of Mike Kochkodin, 59, who received a ticket on March 17 for allegedly entering an intersection two-tenths of a second after the light turned red. Last month, a Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) adjudicator summarily dismissed Kochkodin’s case, noting that the city had promised not to take photos until a third of a second had elapsed. After an article appeared on Thursday, PPA decided to refund the tickets.

“We did not know the magnitude of the problem, nor did the contractor report it,” PPA Executive Director Vince Fenerty told the Inquirer. “Should we have looked further? Most definitely. We didn’t.”

If you get a red-light camera ticket, make sure the city is following its own rules relating to the length of the grace period.

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