Can You Pull Traffic Camera or Red Light Camera Video After an Accident in Texas?

After a car accident, people often notice that there seem to be cameras everywhere–traffic cameras, red light cameras, and highway cameras. So, one would think when the other driver lies about who caused the collision, “I can just pull the footage, and this will prove who is at fault.” The sad reality is, that unless the camera is a private camera that can be subpoenaed, you cannot pull video footage from Texas traffic, highway, and red-light cameras because most cameras do not make a video recording. An accident attorney may be able to help with private security camera footage, but not like the others.

Types of Cameras in Texas

There are three types of cameras in Texas that are intentionally aimed at Texas roadways for the purpose of observing drivers. These are state-operated traffic cameras, city-operated traffic cameras, and red-light cameras. In addition to these, sometimes residences and businesses will have a camera set up for security or surveillance of their property and it will catch activity on a nearby street. So after a car accident, you would think someone must have caught it on video. In reality, unless a privately owned camera catches it and you can get it from them, there is unlikely to be any video of your accident.

Can You Pull Video from TxDot Traffic Cameras?

The State of Texas Department of Transportation a/k/a TxDot is responsible for all cameras set up on state highways. There are several set up in the major cities across Texas. These cameras, however, do not record continuous video feeds. They shoot still shots in short intervals apart so that TxDot and others can monitor the roads for accidents and/or traffic issues. The public can view what these cameras see at the TxDot live camera page. So while you might see the wreck in the images, it is highly unlikely the images will help determine the actual cause of the wreck.

Can I Request the Photos from the TxDot Camera?

You can submit a Freedom of Information Act request for any image they maintain from a camera. You would have to go to the above link and determine which camera you need and know the time you are looking for roughly. Then, follow the instructions here on how to submit the request. I doubt information is stored for long if at all and it is unlikely to help prove anything, so you are likely wasting your time.

Can You Pull Video from City-Operated Cameras?

While it never hurts to check the specific city where the accident happened, most city traffic cameras do not record video either. They usually operate very similar to the TxDot traffic cameras. For example, in Houston, Texas, Houston Transtar is responsible for the traffic cameras that are not TxDot’s property. Per the Houston Transtar website has the following disclosure for the public: “Cameras along the roadways are used for monitoring traffic and incidents or controlling the operations of traffic signals. Houston TranStar does not record video or save images from these cameras.” Thus, it will do you no good to reach out to them. For video footage.

Can You Pull Video from a Redlight Camera?

It is impossible to pull video from a red-light camera for two reasons. One, they do not record videos. Two, most do not operate at all. Red light cameras are designed to snap a photo when an event occurs—the running of a red light.  The goal is to get the license plate. Thus, there is no video to pull.

Additionally, in 2019 a law went into effect banning the use of red-light cameras due to concerns of privacy rights violations. However, there was a catch in the law that said if a city had a contract to operate these in place with a private company at the time the law went into effect, they could continue to use it for the duration of the existing contract. A handful of cities used this as an excuse to sign 15-20-year contracts before the law was enacted. There are 4 cities that still operate working red light cameras today: Humble, Amarillo, Balcones Heights, and Leon Valley.

Why Are There Red Light Cameras in Other Cities?

Many cities simply left the cameras up and shut them off vs removing them. They did this because there was no real reason to spend money taking them down.

Why Do Some Websites Suggest You Can Pull Red-Light and Traffic-Camera Video?

Some sites use this to attract potential clients. They design a page that says they can “submit a request” for camera footage. They also say “if the state or city has any they will produce it upon request.” What they often leave out is that they already know there is none. It is designed to get people who have recently been in a car wreck to call them and they hope to sign them as a client.

surveillance video cameraCan You Pull Video from a Privately Owned Security Camera?

If it exists, you can obtain the video footage from a privately owned security or surveillance camera when the owner either 1) gives it to you voluntarily, or; 2) turns it over in compliance with a subpoena. Private cameras on private property do not have to voluntarily give you their video. However, may will cooperate if you tell them who you are and why you want it. If they do not, you will need to send them a letter directing them not to let the evidence be destroyed and then file a lawsuit and have a subpoena issued to secure the video. Some cities have made exterior cameras mandatory for certain at-risk businesses.

Will the Police Obtain Video Footage of a Car Wreck From Nearby Businesses?

In the case of a crime, the police will often talk to nearby property owners to see if they have a video feed covering the area where an incident occurs in the case of criminal acts. However, they do not always look to these videos in simple car accidents. Thus, relying on officers investigating the scene to pull video feed in a simple car accident situation is not wise.

Tell Your Accident Attorney About Any Cameras

If you believe there is a video feed available after a wreck, talk to a Texas car accident attorney about preserving the evidence and whether it is worth the cost or effort. While government-owned traffic and red-light cameras are unlikely to be helpful, privately-owned security cameras may have valuable evidence and you may be able to obtain it if you act quickly. If you do not make your attorney aware of the video camera, the evidence may be lost.

Related Reading: Who is at Fault if SOmeone Runs a Red Light and You Hit Them?




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