Drive to remove red-light cameras speeds up in CA

red light camera, wikimediaCalifornians soon may put in the rear-view mirror the gaze of red-light cameras.

In the wake of an appeals court ruling that defended the constitutionality of tickets issued to motorists caught running red lights, Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, introduced Assembly Bill 1160 to turn them off in the Golden State.

Cities have begun moving away from the unpopular devices, blamed for creating more accidents than they prevented. The cameras spread throughout California as an efficient way for municipalities to raise revenue by ticketing violators. But lawsuits and increased costs imposed by camera companies have discouraged their continued use.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Harper noted his concern with the “Big Brother” aspect of the cameras, which enable cities to police violations with automation, humans checking only later.

The California Court of Appeal ruled against three San Bernardino County plaintiffs who had sued Redflex Traffic Systems, a red-light camera company based in Australia, for violating their constitutional rights as applied to confrontation, due process and probable cause. “The court leaned heavily on the state Supreme Court’s California v. Goldsmith decision from last June, a case that upheld the state evidence code that lawmakers re-wrote to declare automated tickets admissible as evidence,” reported

A big bother

Without constitutional recourse to the cameras’ Big Brother problem, Harper played up the prospect of legislative relief by emphasizing a different problem — the sheer bother the cameras impose on Californians.

“These cameras were put in place to reduce accidents, but are doing the exact opposite of what they were intended for,” he said in a statement. “They are causing dangerous accidents, and taxpayers are shouldering the burden of maintaining them.” Calling the devices a failure “on all fronts,” Harper vowed that AB1160 “will end wasteful spending on an ineffective program and will make our roads safer at the same time.”

Conflicting data

Evidence appeared to be mixed, however. In Bakersfield, police told ABC 23, “In the eight locations red light cameras are installed, crashes have significantly decreased and only a small number of secondary crashes, rear collisions, have been noted.” According to Sgt. Joe Grubbs, the cameras have helped significantly reduce so-called “primary” collisions, such as head-on crashes and broadsides, “across the board.”

An engineering study conducted in 2013 showed primary collisions dropping between 46 and 73 percent at the Bakersfield intersections where red-light cameras were installed. As KBAK and KBFX Eyewitness News observed, so-called “secondary” collisions also decreased up to 63.7 percent at six out of eight intersections. “But at the remaining two locations, the number of secondary collisions went up. At Bernard Street and Oswell Street the increase was 84.2 percent, and secondary collisions went up by 15.5 percent at Coffee Road and Truxtun Avenue.”

A tide of disapproval

Despite the uncertainty surrounding just how unsafe red-light cameras may be, municipalities have had other incentives to drop them. Redflex has unsuccessfully tried to get cities like Davis to pay over $1,000 more per camera and per month to “upgrade” the devices. Facing substantial costs and popular dissatisfaction, cities from Berkeley to Whittier simply have dropped them.

For Jay Beeber, the Golden State’s preeminent anti-red-light-camera activist, the trend is clear. “In California there were about 110 red light camera programs at one time or other,” he said. “Since then, 73 jurisdictions have closed, banned cameras, or are about to close their programs. That leaves 39 continuing programs in California.”

The movement away from red-light cameras indicates one area where California Republicans can earn goodwill with Democrats — many of whom have viewed the cameras as part of a virtual racket used by police departments to cash in on hapless residents.


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  1. HP
    HP 16 March, 2015, 11:18

    Instead of fighting red light and speed cameras drivers should simply obey the law!
    Other jurisdictions have successfully reduced violations and in addition they have helped the local communities as that is where most of the money goes. I think the fines should even be increased to really hurt the perpetrators!
    But what can you expect from the people when we have a Scofflaw-in-Chief destroying any respect for law and order?
    Look at Europe- we could learn a lot from them!

    Reply this comment
    • Redlightcamerahater
      Redlightcamerahater 25 March, 2015, 13:59

      You are missing the point. These red light cameras often do not function properly and tickets are sent to people who are innocent and did NOT, in fact, break the law. After the Redflex bribery scandal, a local CHP officer who routinely testifies in court, gave a news interview stating that the cameras at some intersections erroneously flash thinking there is a violation when there is not up to 84% of the time. See e.g. recent Rekte case proving yellow light duration (statutory duty to warn of impending red) on data bar was erroneous–shorter than computer time reported. The issue brought up time and again in the case law is the “going through the motions” lack of any semblance of due process that takes place in Superior Court trials. the second hand testimony of the officer who presents the video/still photos with databar is admitted as evidence. Very little cross examination is generally allowed. And the judge bangs his gavel and says “Next.” The legal presumption of the cameras being foolproof with no opportunity to cross examine the camera operator about how the error occurred leaves the innocent driver effectively presumed guilty until he proves his/her innocence–which is virtually impossible to do under the circumstances.

      Reply this comment
      • None
        None 26 March, 2015, 09:45

        Why is it that red light and speed cameras are so successful all over Europe?
        Hit the traffic scofflaws where it hurts them most – in their wallets!
        Herman Pfauter

        Reply this comment
        • Safer Streets LA
          Safer Streets LA 27 March, 2015, 15:38

          They are not successful all over Europe. Did you at least look at the information we posted below on how intersections can be made much safer with proper engineering?

          Reply this comment
    • anna
      anna 8 October, 2015, 16:12

      Money Grab. As part of DOJ investigation even manufacture warns not to trust video as video compression effects timing. It’s a money grab and officers of a manufacturer was found guilty of bribery and are going to jail. You must work for one of the agencies who profit or whose job depends on their continue use.

      Reply this comment
    • anna
      anna 8 October, 2015, 16:16

      Guilty until proven innocent. Not the American way.

      Reply this comment
    • Anna
      Anna 21 January, 2016, 16:32

      You’re right but when the laws are being broken by manipulations of the systems then to who are you speaking. Bribery, fraud, communities on record of not being in compliance, and when caught refunding millions of dollars. Take the profit out of any system and it goes away. That’s exactly what’s happening when cities are held to a standard stated in the Vehicle Code. The use of these device has never been about safety and always a money grab. Spend a little time investigating the subject, it all of public record. Do you really think profit should be the motive to issue tickets making crooks out of our police departments and judicial systems, because that’s whats happened.

      Reply this comment
  2. Safer Streets LA
    Safer Streets LA 17 March, 2015, 00:49

    For those of you “just follow the law and you won’t have any problems” commenters, the major issue is that for profit camera companies know exactly which intersections have faulty engineering, most commonly yellow light times too short for the actual flow of traffic. They employ something they call a “violation calculator” which takes into account how deficient the engineering is. Then they encourage the cities to put the cameras in those locations so they will generate enough tickets to pay for their product. Culver City and Beverly Hills are especially egregious with this practice. But you could just fix the engineering and reduce red light running much more than any camera ever will. If you do the engineering properly, there is very little red light running and the cameras can’t pay for themselves.

    We found that when West Hollywood increased their yellow times by a mere 0.3 second their violations dropped by 40% to 70% depending on the intersection. In Fremont, CA Caltrans increased the yellow time at one intersection by 0.7 second and violations went down 78% immediately. That decrease has held for over 3 years proving that drivers do not adjust to the longer time. In Loma Linda, CA a 1.0 second increase in the yellow time lead to a 92% reduction in violations. The issue about red light cameras is one of science, specifically physics, not opinion. The science tells us that red light cameras do not improve safety, may make our roadways less safe by causing drivers to over react, take millions of dollars out of our economy for no reason, and create a perverse incentive for cities not to fix the deficient engineering. All good reasons this bill was introduced to stop new camera installations and require cities to prove that they have improved safety.

    Reply this comment
    • Anna
      Anna 18 October, 2015, 14:37

      Video compression and pixels are so easy to manipulate. Stop lights in a video manipulation is one of the easiest. Want a yellow light to appear red. Click, Click It takes second to change an amber light and make it appear red. Snitch tickets sent in the mail by local police departments, cost incentive clauses in contracts, bribery, manipulation of amber light times, greed is good in the private public government sector. These tickets are legal evidence in spite of the industries reputation. Give me a break..

      Reply this comment
  3. al
    al 21 January, 2016, 15:33

    this is u s , where freedom rules those cameras are better than armed robery , who gave this officials to do this shit, they take our money and freedom away

    Reply this comment
  4. al
    al 21 January, 2016, 15:38

    this is the u s , where freedom rules those cameras are better than armed robery , who gave this officials the right to do this shit, they take our money and freedom away,no shame at all they ritered early on our money after we pay their high salaries

    Reply this comment

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