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California: Another City Admits Accidents Not Reduced By Red Light Cameras
Redwood City, California admits red light cameras do not reduce accidents and refuses to make changes to program.

Louis A. Cobarruviaz
Under court order, Redwood City, California was forced to admit that the red light camera installed at Whipple Avenue and Veterans Boulevard in March 2008 have done absolutely nothing to reduce traffic collisions. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford V. Cretan instructed the city council to respond to a civil grand jury report from June that blasted municipal programs throughout the county that raised $13.8 million from ticketing despite the lack of evidence of any safety benefit (read report).

The Redwood City Council will vote Monday to approve a draft response created in close consultation with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the Redwood City program. Under the signature of Police Chief Louis A. Cobarruviaz, the letter ignores every substantial recommendation offered by the grand jury. For example, because the number of accidents is not going down, the city disagreed with the grand jury recommendation that the city measure the program's ongoing effectiveness by the number of collisions before and after camera installation. The grand jury insisted that the city council be provided a regular update on these rates on at least an annual basis, but no such report has been implemented.

"While the number of red light violation-related collisions at the approaches have not had a significant change since the installation of the red light cameras, it would appear the city's camera systems are reducing the number of red light violations as the number of violations recorded have dropped since their installation," the draft response letter stated.

The number of violations recorded also decreases as motorists avoid intersections known to have red light cameras. Equipment malfunctions, repairs and vandalism can also reduce the number of violations recorded. The city also blasted the grand jury for implying that the program appeared more concerned with revenue than accident reduction.

"The current revenue realized by the city is surprisingly low compared to expected projections," the draft response stated.

The city claimed it "had significant difficulty obtaining its portion of the fines from San Mateo County," which collected $1.7 million in 2008 and $3.2 million in 2009. Redwood City routinely assigned employees involved in other tasks to the red light camera program account to inflate the estimates of the program "cost" -- even though the full cost of the program by contract is borne by Redflex. The city also rejected the grand jury finding that it was imposing $446 tickets on minor "California roll" stops at intersections that have little impact on safety.

"The city is unaware of the number of violations for failure to stop before making a right turn in other cities; however, a significant portion of citations issued from the city's red light cameras are for that violation," the draft response stated.

To prevent motorists from being unknowingly trapped by such tickets at the enforced intersections, the grand jury recommended signage at each location so that motorists would know right-hand turns would be ticketed. The city has absolutely no interest in providing such warning.

"The city does not have signage at each intersection because it is not required by statute," the response stated.

Source: PDF File Response to San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Repor (Redwood City, California, 8/21/2010)

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