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Guest opinion: Why red-light camera tickets? By Joel L. Block | Fri, Apr 14 2017 12:10 AM

Part two of an on-going series.


The issue of red-light camera tickets continues to be a controversial one across the United States and in California.

It is a big business, which is supported by vendors’ and politicians’ claims that safety is the object, not money.  Yet more and more questions arise as to the factual basis for the safety claims behind adoption of red-light camera systems.

Recently, Florida issued a statewide annual report dated Dec. 31, 2016, covering almost 60 jurisdictions and some 700 red-light cameras at over 400 intersections.  Over 1.2 million red-light camera tickets were issued, with over 750 thousand of them being paid.

The Florida report showed that installation of red-light cameras increased accidents and their severity.  Several other studies have similarly questioned the safety of red-light cameras.


Crashes increased with cameras

Total crashes at the involved intersections in Florida increased by over 10 percent following installation of red-light cameras.  Injury crashes increased by over 9 percent; incapacitating injury crashes increased by over 25 percent.  Fatal crashes increased from 5 to 10, an increase of 100 percent.

It is no surprise, then, that the Florida House voted on March 23 to discontinue their red-light camera program.

[Six days later, on March 29, the Texas State Senate voted to ban the use of red-light cameras in that state as well.]

The Florida and Texas bills to end their state’s use of red-light cameras are just the most recent efforts nationwide.  After a five-year red-light camera pilot project ended in 2014, New Jersey’s legislature has not sought to restart the program.

In Los Angeles, the city’s Police Commission in 2011 ended their Police Department’s use of red-light cameras to issue traffic tickets. 

Although several other cities in LA County continue to use red-light cameras, the Los Angeles Superior Court is no longer taking enforcement action against drivers who ignore red-light camera tickets, such as issuing warrants for non-appearance or reporting to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The cities of Pasadena, San Bernardino and San Diego dropped their red-light camera programs in 2012 and 2013.


Two OC cities still use cameras

In 2015, the City of Santa Ana ended its red-light camera program, leaving just Garden Grove and Los Alamitos as the only remaining cities in Orange County continuing the use of red-light cameras.

That same year a bill was introduced in the California House to prevent the installation of new red-light cameras by cities. 

The bill, AB 1160, also required cities to conduct studies concerning the safety impact of their existing red-light cameras to determine whether their continued use was justified. The bill died in committee in 2016 and apparently has not been revived in the current legislative session.

While the red-light camera issue won’t go away completely, it may be replaced by a new California controversy:  speeding tickets automatically issued by cities using photo camera radar devices.

In February, legislators in the Bay Area proposed AB 342, a bill authorizing the cities of San Francisco and San Jose to electronically issue speeding tickets using automated photo radar camera systems.

What’s next?  I can wait.

Joel L. Block lives in Rossmoor and is a retired attorney.

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