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4/27/2011
Los Angeles, California Extends Red Light Camera Contract
Though red light camera contract extended in Los Angeles, California, program comes under extra scrutiny.

City council meeting, 4/26/11
The Los Angeles, California city council yesterday voted 9-3 to extend a red light camera contract for ninety days despite mounting concerns over the program's safety and cost effectiveness. Safer Streets LA challenged the accuracy of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) claims that photo enforcement has reduced accidents (view report), and several councilmen expressed interest in following up on the group's recommendation that yellow signal durations be extended by a second to improve intersection safety.

"Are there other intersections that might benefit from improved engineering and infrastructure that could also prevent fatalities and bad collisions -- I would like to see more comparisons," Councilman Janice Hahn said.

Most of the members expressed dissatisfaction with city staff for failing to provide context for accident reduction claims at monitored intersections. Many wanted to know which intersections in the city had the worst problem with accidents and wondered why those locations were not the ones with cameras. Although LAPD Sergeant Matthew MacWillie did not have the data requested, he emphasized several times that the thirty-two red light camera intersections experienced no fatalities after cameras were installed.

"There were no fatalities at 4536 other signalized intersections during the same period of time," Safer Streets Executive Director Jay Beeber countered. "Those fatalities do not cluster at the same intersections year after year after year -- so you're not going to find an intersection that had a fatality and have it year-after-year unless you have an engineering problem... As far as the top-ten locations of where we have a problem, I've got a list right here, and these are because the signal timing is not appropriate."

At the meeting, LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore confirmed that judicial officials will not suspend the license of ticket recipients who refuse to pay the $476 fine sent in the mail. Although a collection notice will be sent, Moore said no steps beyond the threatening letter could be taken.

"If the court is not going to have consequences for people going through the red light and getting the citations, then the collection agency is a joke," Councilman Dennis P. Zine said. "We're going to have a problem showing honesty and transparency with this particular program because you can tell your constituents, don't pay it. There are no consequences."

Zine also took issue with three out of every four citation going to drivers accused of making California stops, insisting this was not something the program originally was supposed to do.

"Very few people are getting killed for turning right on red lights," Zine said. "And when a pedestrian gets killed, it's usually crossing mid-block, at night, and they get taken out and killed because they're not paying attention and a motorist doesn't see them."

A copy of the point-by-point Safer Speeds rebuttal to LAPD claims is available in a 560k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Response to LAPD Report (Safer Streets LA, 4/18/2011)

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