Red-light cameras

Council originally approved a pilot Red-light Camera Program in the City of Ottawa and subsequently approved its continuation and expansion. The program is an initiative to improve intersection safety by decreasing the incidence of red light running.

Red-light cameras are installed at several locations throughout the city. Council selected these intersections based on collision rates.

"Red-light running" refers to driving through an intersection after the light has turned red. It is an aggressive driving behaviour that contributes to Ottawa's collision rate; in 2014, there were 655 reportable angle collisions at signalized intersections in the city.

A driver running a red light can seriously injure or kill others. Collisions resulting from red-light running tend to be more severe than other intersection collisions because they usually involve at least one vehicle travelling very quickly. In the most serious red-light running collisions, the vehicles hit each other at right angles. The resulting side-impact collisions cause severe injuries sometimes leading to death.

How often do drivers run red lights?

Too often! Here are examples of blatant red-light violations at different intersections. The data was recorded during a five-hour period and applies to only one direction:


Intersection Number of violations
Albert Street & Kent Streets (northbound) 37 violations
Carling Avenue & Richmond Road (westbound) 29 violations
Coventry/Ogilvie Road & St. Laurent Boulevard (northbound) 78 violations
Heron Road & Riverside Drive (eastbound) 55 violations


How do red-light cameras increase safety?

Public awareness of red-light cameras improves aggressive driving behaviour. Studies have shown that red-light violation rates can decrease as much as 42 percent within a few months of camera installation. The benefits of improved driving habits even spread into intersections without cameras.

Where are the intersections equipped with red light cameras in Ottawa? 

The intersections equipped with red light cameras, in Ottawa, can be found on the interactive traffic map. New red light camera locations are added to the map only once they become fully activated.  There will be a total of 54 active red light cameras in Ottawa as of 2018. Five of these cameras will be installed in 2016 and 15 more, in 2017.  

Are the intersections with red light cameras signed to warn motorists?

Yes, all locations equipped with red light cameras are signed.

How is the red-light violation documented?

The red-light camera takes two photographs. The first photo is taken when a vehicle with a red light is about to enter an intersection. The second photograph shows the offending vehicle in the intersection. Both photos show the rear of the offending vehicle only.

Do the cameras photograph every vehicle passing through an intersection?

No. The cameras photograph only those vehicles entering an intersection after the light has turned red. Motorists who enter during a yellow light and are in the intersection when the light changes will not be photographed.

Can vehicle owners obstruct their license plates?

No. It is against the law to obstruct a vehicle's license plate.

Do the cameras also record violations at night?

Yes. The cameras can record violations in darkness.

What about cyclists who run red lights?

The red-light cameras are not used to detect and photograph cyclists who run a red light. Although cyclists are subject to the same traffic signal regulations as motorists, there is no current registration system that could verify a cyclists' identity in a photograph.

Isn't regular police enforcement enough?

It is difficult for police to enforce red-light running because they must follow offenders through the light in order to catch them. This can endanger other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as well as the officers.

Communities can't afford to have police patrol intersections as often as necessary to catch red-light runners. The cameras will allow police to focus on other enforcement needs.

Who receives the ticket for running a red light? What is the fine?

No matter who was driving the vehicle at the time of the photograph, the registered owner of the photographed vehicle receives the ticket. The owner's insurance company will not be notified of the violation.

The fine is $260 plus a $5 service fee and $60 victim surcharge. If the fine goes unpaid, the license plate cannot be renewed. The owner's driver license is not suspended for any unpaid fine, and no jail term can be imposed for the offence or for fine default.

Will the registered vehicle owner receive any demerit points?

No, but red-light runners ticketed by police and subsequently convicted will receive three demerit points.

How are violations processed?

All evidence gathered from red-light cameras is processed as follows:

  • Images from red light cameras are sent to the centralized processing centre (the City of Toronto's Transportation Services)
  • All images are reviewed by a Provincial Offences Officer to verify that an offence has occurred
  • The license plate number is read from the digital image
  • An Offence Notice Form is completed and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

The court system is responsible for trials and appeals

Do red light cameras violate privacy?

No. By obtaining a license, motorists agree to abide by rules governed by the Highway Traffic Act. Motorists themselves are not to be observed or documented. Red-light cameras photograph a vehicle's rear license plate only-not its driver or occupants. The City consulted the Province's Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure the cameras do not violate driver privacy.

Who has access to the violation photos?

Photos gathered for evidence are used only to verify that an offence has occurred and to record license-plate numbers. Officials at the Centralized Processing Centre keep the photos. If a defendant requests a trial, the centre must help the Crown Prosecutor by providing the original violation photos and certified plate registration information. These photos, when entered into evidence, become public record.

What is the City's annual budget for the Red Light Camera Program?

The Red Light Camera Program has an annual budget of $996K in 2016. The funds are used to cover the following:

  • Start-up costs
  • Engineering
  • Equipment purchase
  • Installation
  • Maintenance
  • Operating costs

What other jurisdictions/countries use red light cameras?

Red light cameras have been used throughout North America, Europe and Asia.