10/19/2009California: Right Turn Camera Makes $1 Million a Month
Right turn on red camera issues half of the tickets in Riverside, California at a rate of nearly $11 million a year.
A single red light camera in Riverside, California issued $1 million worth of right-hand turn on red tickets in just one month. The automated ticketing machine installed in March at Tyler Street at the entrance to the 91 Freeway has become the most productive of the city's cameras and now accounts for half of the citations issued by Riverside's vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. The camera helped boost the grand total of citations mailed since January 2007 to 82,448 tickets worth $32,532,203.
As in most California cities, Riverside's program began with tickets issued to drivers primarily at locations where the yellow light provided insufficient warning. A 2001 report by the California State Auditor found that 77 percent of tickets in major cities were issued for split-second violations. This means that motorists who harmlessly entered the intersection a fraction of a second after the light turned red were photographed and sent a ticket. In fact, the trigger is so quick in Riverside that city documents recorded four instances early this year in which the camera generated a citation when one traffic signal facing the driver displayed a red light while a secondary signal still displayed the yellow light. Tickets in these particular cases were canceled before being dropped in the mail.
Over time, drivers learned the location of these cameras and traffic volume has decreased. So the number of citations has likewise diminished. Redflex addresses this problem by regularly installing new cameras with an emphasis on those that focus on "rolling" right-turns on red. Thanks to this strategy, Riverside saw a 28 percent increase in gross revenue over all of 2007 in just the first eight months of 2009. The Tyler Street and 91 camera accounted for nearly all of the boost, generating $1 million worth of citations in April according to data obtained by highwayrobbery.net. The same camera is on track to issue $11 million annually.
Despite the significant revenue figures, Riverside Police insist that the cameras have one purpose: to reduce traffic fatalities.
"The red signal is red for a reason. Like the 'Wrong Way' and 'Stop' signs, the lights' red color is intended to be a strong warning to motorists of the deadly hazard in disobeying these signs," Riverside Police Traffic Bureau Lieutenant Ken Carpenter said in a statement.
According to a 2001 review of 2001 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report, however, a mere 0.038 percent of all crashes involved a motorist who made a right-hand turn at an intersection (view report). By the odds, such accidents are so rare that an individual could drive a billion miles before being involved in a collision that resulted from a motorist making a rolling stop on a right-hand turn.