Traffic Camera vs Red Light Camera

19th Sep,2023

Having a car is one of the milestones in life. You can get to places faster, easier, and more conveniently. However, being a driver is more than just getting on your car and driving off to places far away. It takes not just driving skills, but knowledge and ability to follow traffic laws as well.

If one is not aware of traffic rules and regulations, it’s a traffic violation ticket waiting to happen. And with the advancement of technology, law enforcement nowadays use different monitoring devices to regulate driving. Once you’re caught, you’d have to pay the hefty fines or else risk getting your license suspended or revoked. That’s why we need to review some of the devices we may encounter on the road, particularly the traffic camera and the red light camera.

Traffic Camera and Red Light Camera Comparison

First things first. It’s important to note that there are two types of cameras: automated traffic enforcement cameras and non-enforcement cameras. The former typically issues tickets to violators (such as a red light camera and a speed camera) while the latter is mainly for monitoring traffic conditions. Let’s further explore the differences between a traffic camera vs. red light camera. 

Red Light Camera

Basically, a red light camera is an automatic system that issues tickets for red light violations. They detect when a driver enters an intersection when the traffic signal is in red, and when he does, the camera takes multiple pictures of the vehicle and the license plate during the violation. These pictures are then sent to the corresponding department. After some time, the driver gets the notice in the mail and has to pay the fine. Still, a police officer present in the scene can issue a ticket too.

Red Light Camera

Red light cameras are different from speed cameras, which detect if a driver has gone over the speed limit. Fixed cameras are permanently mounted on poles on roadsides and in areas like school zones, while mobile speed cameras can be found on a camera tripod or inside a van. But like red light cameras, speed cameras also take pictures of vehicles and issue speeding tickets to violators.

So going back to our topic, how do you tell if it’s a red light camera? Two things: location and size. Red light cameras are typically mounted in an intersection, especially busy ones. Many people think that red light cameras are those mounted on the traffic sign, but they’re mostly on the side of the road. As for size, this camera is noticeably bulkier than a traffic camera (e.g. automatic number-plate recognition cameras). The usual setup is a large camera box plus two external flashes mounted on each end of the intersection. Furthermore, each intersection has a couple of red light cameras to take pictures of different angles and directions in order to make sure the vital information is captured. 

Running red lights is indeed a serious offense that causes many accidents. To counteract this, red light cameras are installed in many countries and cities around the world, although a police officer present in the scene can issue a ticket as well. Some countries that have red light cameras installed include Canada, US, UK, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and Netherlands.

However, red light cameras are a hot point for debate. Despite their perceived usefulness, there are some studies that say they’re not as effective in preventing a vehicular accident. Furthermore, there are arguments that these cameras are only used to generate income for local municipalities through red light camera tickets

Whatever the case, it’s important for all drivers to not run red lights so as not to cause any traffic disasters.

Traffic Camera (Non-Enforcement Camera)

While red light cameras issue a ticket, traffic cameras make use of surveillance technology to monitor traffic conditions. In short, they are not a threat. Their main purpose to keep an eye on traffic itself, measuring the flow and determining the timing of traffic lights. They’re not linked to any type of enforcement system, so they’re not really something for you to worry about.

Traffic Camera

Traffic cameras are smaller in size compared to a red light camera. They are either cylindrical or dome-shaped, enclosed in a weatherproof casing. In terms of location, they’re typically found in many areas like busy roads and intersections. Traffic cameras are the ones installed on top of a traffic signal, but they can also be mounted on poles above roadways. Their placement makes it easy to tell them apart from traffic enforcement cameras. Now, you won’t be confused anymore.  

Aside from monitoring traffic conditions, there are also other uses and benefits of having camera traffic systems installed in an area. For one, they help commuters see the traffic situation in their respective locations through the news and other media outlets. Since traffic cams are placed in common congestion points, commuters like you and me get to know the state of the roads before we get to work or go to certain destinations.

The authorities also get to observe car flows, accidents, and closures in order to inform the public and create alternate routes, should the need arise. For researchers and other experts, they may use footage from traffic cameras to review patterns for studies and even make decisions for road-building projects.

Traffic Camera vs Red Light Camera


To eliminate any confusion, we have discussed the difference between a traffic camera and red light camera. We also did a quick review of speed cameras since they’re a relative of these devices, but used to detect speeding vehicles only. Traffic and red light cams differ in purpose, with the former being used primarily to monitor the flow of traffic and the latter to issue tickets to people running red lights. In addition, they differ in appearance as well, with red light cameras usually bulkier than traffic cameras. With the presence of these devices, all of us get an extra layer of protection and documentation while driving on the road. 

William Johnson

William Johnson is the owner and founder of He writes about car accessories, with his passion stemming from a deep enthusiasm for all things automotive. His website, RRD, focuses on in-depth reviews of car accessories to help people find the best and latest products in the market.