A late-night drive through Bloor and Dufferin streets cost Elijah Lowe more than the $1.49 he spent on a chocolate bar.
He got a $180 traffic ticket as well. It was 10:30 p.m. on Oct.12 when Lowe, 23, drove through a red traffic light and was caught on a red-light camera, strategically placed at the corner of the intersection to catch drivers disobeying the law. A burst of light similar to a camera flash temporarily blinded Lowe but he ignored it until the fine arrived in the mail exactly one month later.
Lowe’s major concern was losing any demerit points, as disobeying a red-light offence can cost a driver three points, an increase in insurance rates and an expensive ticket.
What Lowe did not know is that any ticket given for disobeying a red light caught on camera is different if a police officer issues the ticket. It is a not part of section 144(18) of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Drivers do not lose any demerit points if caught on camera -unlike if it were issued by a cop.
“It goes against the car, not the driver,” said Chris Conway, president and founder of Ontario Traffic Tickets – an ex-cop service to help citizens get out of traffic ticket trouble.
Conway spent 25 years with the Toronto Police Service working at 14 Division, the Central Traffic Unit and the police headquarters.
Although Lowe does not risk losing any points, he insists on taking the ticket to court, hoping to get it reduced.
“I’m not giving these guys $180 for something I know I can get lowered or dropped altogether,” Lowe said.
Although other types of traffic tickets can be brought to court and many get the fines reduced, Conway said the odds of Lowe getting the fine dismissed on this case are very slim.
“The most he’s probably going to get is have it reduced to just under $100,” Conway said. “There’s no real chance that it’s going to get thrown out and the best thing he should do is plead guilty with an explanation. Three pictures of him going through the light were taken by the camera, which is enough proof. It is just a fine, similar to a parking ticket but only more expensive.”
Conway also does not recommend him to pay for any ex-cop services because he would just be wasting his money on fees. He would most likely receive the same reduced fine if he went to court himself.
“I don’t think it’s fair to fine someone who went through a red light that was only red for 0.3 sec.,” Lowe said, as indicated on the ticket. “I can’t even finish saying ‘red’ yet and it’s already been more than 0.3 sec. You can’t even time that.”
However, there is a mathematical equation officers use to calculate how long a red light was displayed before drivers react to it. In Toronto, amber lights are amber for four seconds. before they turn red. Conway said that is enough time for drivers to react and put on the brakes.
“It deals with technical time and distance and if they are driving at the speed limit,” Conway said. “If he was going at the right speed limit, he is travelling at 44 feet per second. In this case, he was a little less than a car length behind the line when it went red and what the officer is saying is he violated the traffic light for 0.3 sec. or less. If he was going faster than that, that’s a worse ball game to be in.”
The case is still pending as Lowe is scheduled to make a court appearance a year from now.