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9/18/2009
California City Proposes to Evade California Red Light Camera Law
Corona, California may ignore state traffic camera law to impose a fine of up to $500 to be kept by the city and its vendor.

Mayor Steve Nolan
Since May, the red light cameras in the city of Corona, California have issued a total of 6511 citations worth $2,903,906. This money has been split between Corona, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, the state and Riverside County. On Wednesday, the Corona City Council discussed the possibility of cutting the state and county out of the program entirely. This would allow Corona to keep more money while giving the city a chance to claim it is lowering the pricey $446 automated ticket.

"I voted for the program, but I made a mistake," Mayor Steve Nolan said. "I didn't ask the cost... We are killing people with the fines."

The city's proposal would ignore the California statute authorizing red light camera ticketing, setting procedures and establishing the fines. In its place, the city would substitute its own administrative ticketing arrangement. Currently Corona only collects $133.80 out of each $446 ticket. Under the new plan, the first ticket would be lower but the city stands to collect a much greater amount from repeat violations.

"Administrative citations are processed outside of the court system and the driver is not held responsible," Police Chief Richard Madory explained. "Vehicle Code Section 21100(d) provides the city with the authority to implement a local ordinance that would require a motorist to stop at red lights or any other traffic control device; however, there are no cities, to our knowledge, in California that are issuing administrative citations for red light violations. The fees received for administrative citations are set by California Government Code 36900 at $100 for a first violation. Subsequent violations can be increased up to $500 within a twelve-month period of time."

Taking the unprecedented step of abandoning the structure set out by the legislature would certainly draw a lawsuit. Opponents of the red light camera program made forceful statements at the council hearing.

"I think we need to call this what it is: a tax increase for the city," resident Mark Hainan said. "We're taxed enough. Obama's killing us, our state's killing us, and now our own city's killing us. We're talking about California stops -- ninety percent of the people in this room do California stops. I think the whole abomination should be abolished, not just reduce the fines."

According to the city, 55 percent of tickets are issued to Corona residents. Redflex sends the vast majority of these tickets to drivers who make a right-hand turn on red after slowing. Studies show that these "California stops" are not a significant cause of accidents. Only one resident spoke in favor of the cameras, and those speaking against them received applause from the audience until Nolan insisted that they stop.

Nolan ended the meeting by stating that he would schedule a public city council study session to further consider the administrative ticket proposal.



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