Four red light cameras watch your every move in certain parts of Savannah.
Under Georgia law, if you get caught running a red light you should get two notices. One is a citation via regular mail and the other is a certified letter second notice.
The change went into effect in December 2008, when the Georgia Senate passed House Bill 77 after a push to get rid of red light cameras altogether. The bill was a compromise to give violators more notice. A set fine of $70, with no accruing late charges or penalties, is also part of the bill.
Earlier this year, CBS Atlanta investigated the city of Atlanta and discovered Atlanta was not issuing certified letters as second warnings.
WTOC decided to check into Savannah's red light camera ticket practices, which fall under city parking services.
The city was unaware of the change in law, but was in compliance, technically, since certified second warnings were being sent out for motorists with multiple parking and red light citations.
Red light cameras have been nabbing red light runners in Savannah since 2003.
Cathy Netherly's husband got one and with the ticket was three pictures. Two of the pictures were of his car before and during the violation, one was of his car tag and the citation also included a link to a 10 second video of the violation.
This is standard for all red light camera tickets.
"In this case, it was a real close up picture. He knew he had done it so there was no question. He didn't contest it," Netherly said.
Jerald Kicklighter's friend didn't know he ran a red light and he says his friend never received a first notice.
"He never got a notification for the first time," he said. "I think they should send the first letter certified. That way you can handle it in a timely fashion."
"If we send out a second notice it has to be a certified letter to be sure they received and signed off on the letter they received," Veleeta McDonald, Savannah Parking Services Director, told WTOC.
This wasn't always the city's red light ticket policy. It didn't go into effect until earlier this year.
"About five months ago when you first approached the subject," McDonald said.
Back in May, WTOC spoke with then parking services director Sean Brandon, where there was a question as to whether or not the city of Savannah was breaking the law, on the heels of the investigation in Atlanta.
Under House Bill 77, if there is no response to the first notice, a person is not liable to pay the fine for the red light camera ticket until a second notice is sent. The second notice must be a certified letter.
"That is something we were not doing because we were not aware of the change," McDonald told WTOC. "I don't know what process they used but what we were doing was not in violation of what House Bill 77 was."
McDonald says, technically, the city is within the law and the $70 fine should not accrue any late fees or surcharges.
"They are $70. There are no penalties. It will always be $70," she said.
The city now automatically issues a certified letter second warning on red light camera tickets and credits WTOC with the change.
"In a way you did. You helped make the change," McDonald said. "We just like to make sure we are protected and the City of Savannah is protected at all times. It's better to be safe than sorry."
For these motorists, it's better late than never.
"It does seem like a good idea," Netherly said.
"I'm very happy to see it because I might be the next one to get a ticket," Kicklighter said. "I don't want it to sneak up on me."
Friday, May 24 2013 7:57 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:57:32 GMT
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