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New Legislation to Regulate Red Light Camera’s

Monday, May 23, 2011 @ 02:05 PM
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Red light camera abuses would ease under new law

May 19th, 2011, 3:00 am · 58 Comments · posted by Teri Sforza, Register staff writer

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We at The Watchdog did not look very good in the fuzzy photo documenting our sojourn through the intersection of Harbor Drive and Orangethorpe Avenue in Fullerton.

Oh, we saw the bright flash of the red light camera, and shook our head sadly for the car slightly behind us and to the right. Sucker!

Before that red light ticket landed in our mailbox, we would have sworn that the light was yellow when we were in the intersection. Really! Truly! It was yellow! But there we were,  in that fuzzy little picture, with a red orb hanging over our head….

What followed, as many of you know, was a modern form of medieval torture: Eight hours of traffic school in the Santa Ana courthouse, and hundreds of dollars in fines.

Those Fullerton cameras were ruled illegal in 2008, and are now gone. Other  cities have dumped or banned red light cameras as well, including Anaheim, Irvine and Costa Mesa. But

you’ll still find dozens of them scattered through Santa Ana, Garden Grove and elsewhere in Orange County, as that map

from Photoenforced.com so graphically illustrates.

The much-detested cameras, attacked as nothing more than a moneymaking scheme as often as they’re praised for improving public safety, would come under a raft of new restrictions under Senate Bill 29, which was approved on a bi-partisan vote of 36-0 in the State Senate this week.

SB 29, by Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would “protect the rights of drivers” by establishing statewide standards for installing and operating  red light cameras — and would make it easier to challenge unjustified tickets, Simitian says:

  • Camera locations would have to be chosen on safety considerations, and not on their potential to generate revenue. A “demonstrated safety need” would be required.
  • No more forced “snitch tickets” – which is to say that, if someone else was driving your car, you wouldn’t have to point the finger at them to clear yourself of the red light violation.
  • Tickets would have to explain how drivers can view the photographic evidence and discuss it by telephone or in person with the agency issuing the ticket.
  • Tickets would identify the company operating the camera and provide contact information for the agency issuing the ticket.
  • Signs would have to be posted within 200 feet of every intersection with a red light camera.

“This bill is designed to make sure that people’s due process rights are protected as they work their way through the system, and to make sure that if somebody gets a ticket that they shouldn’t have, they have a way out of the system that’s relatively quick and convenient,” Simitian said in a prepared statement.

While Simitian says he’s not against red light cameras, he thinks they raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process. “I believe that traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue,” he said.

Imagine!

In 2008, the Register reported that thousands of drivers who ignored their red light camera tickets got an unusual gift from Orange County courts: Their cases disappeared, with no fines, no points on their driving records, and no torturous hours of traffic school.

Why? Because police and court workers rarely completed the time-consuming process of tracking down and enforcing red-light violations. Court records indicated that as many as 25,000 motorists received a free pass between 2004 and 2008, though records were so vague that calculating an exact number was impossible.

The red light camera system has improved in recent years, and make the roads safer,  cities that still use them have said.

SB 29 grew out Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. San Jose resident Vera Gil, who kept getting red light tickets for a car in Southern California that she didn’t own and had never driven, made the suggestion.

Gil’s license plate was one letter off from the offender’s license plate. But just try explaining that to the police and red light camera company. Again. And again. And again.

Of course, there are arguments against SB 29 — a big one being that it would cost local governments hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. We’ll bring those arguments to you later.

Until then, drive safely!

http://taxdollars.ocregister.com/2011/05/19/red-light-camera-abuses-would-ease-under-new-law/83477/

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