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4/23/2010
California: City Profits From Right Turn Trap
Los Angeles, California red light camera racks up $500 tickets with a split-second mistiming.

Right turn ticket, 1/4/10An intersection in Los Angeles, California is billing drivers nearly $500 for making a turn in the split-second before a permissive green turn arrow appears. Los Angeles hired American Traffic Solutions to operate thirty-two cameras in order to generate about $4 million a year in revenue. The cameras now pounce on drivers making technical mistakes on right-hand turns.

Motorist Stephen Lo found this out the hard way while driving his 2004 Nissan 350Z at the intersection of Sepulveda and Victory Boulevards at around 1:30pm on January 4. As he slowed to make his turn, looking both ways, a 0.6 second gap appeared between the end of the yellow light and the illumination of the green arrow. Because Lo was caught in between the split-second lag between the lights, the photographic evidence showed him apparently breaking the law. A look at the video evidence, however, shows that the vehicle's front wheels had barely entered the intersection by the time that the green arrow appeared.

"I might just decide to pay the ticket," Lo told TheNewspaper. "I weighed my options and I don't have time to go into court to battle this out."

Lo found himself in the company of about 80 percent of recipients of tickets in Los Angeles who were billed for making rolling right hand turns, according to a 2008 Los Angeles Times report. Despite the heavy focus on right-hand turns for citations, of the 1926 collisions reported at enforced locations between 2006 and 2008, only 2.6 percent were caused by "unsafe turns" -- a figure which includes the much more common left-hand turn collisions.

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