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11/21/2012California: Red Light Camera Firm Takes Credit for Reform Legislation
Red light camera industry claims credit for so-called reform to California red light camera law.
California Governor Jerry Brown (D) in September signed Senate Bill 1303 into law, a measure that the San Francisco Chronicle wrote would "rein in red light camera abuses." State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said the purpose of the bill he introduced was "to protect the rights of drivers." Internal documents reveal red light camera vendors saw the law as a victory for their industry, not for drivers.
As reported by TheNewspaper in August, Redflex was privately taking credit for authoring the pro-camera provisions of Simitian's bill as it made its way through the legislature. Newer emails reveal the Australian photo ticketing firm also took credit for the measure becoming law.
"This memo discusses the impact of the industry's successful efforts to support Senate Bill Number 1303, which was enacted on September 28, 2012," Redflex wrote to municipal employees involved in camera programs.
While the Simitian bill sat on Brown's desk awaiting a signature, Redflex Traffic Systems was not taking any chances. The largest operator of red light camera projects in the Golden State put its lobbying machinery into high gear. On September 19, Redflex Account Representative John Burnette emailed officials in the city of Riverside urging them to have their chief of police contact Brown recommending he sign the bill. Burnette included a copy of a letter ready to be mailed to the governor's office on the city's behalf. Brown signed the bill nine days later. The camera industry did not see the bill as pro-motorist.
"SB 1303 is a vote by the California legislature in favor of automated traffic enforcement systems," the Redflex memo explained. "The changes enacted by this legislation overrule Borzakian [view case] and expressly reject the most commonly used (and commonly litigated) challenges to the admission of automated traffic enforcement system-generated evidence. SB 1303 also expressly allows, for the first time, notices encouraging registered owners to identify the driver who committed the infraction."
Specifically, the new law declares printed computer evidence from a photo enforcement system to be presumed accurate. This is problematic, as the data box printed on photo tickets in cities like Riverside frequently contains bogus information. On October 29, for example, Riverside employee Don Teagarden noticed a ticket was issued to the car from Lane 5, but the photograph showed the driver in Lane 1.
"Wow! I will forward this classic to the Ops supervisors for review," Burnette wrote in an email after Redflex was notified about the problem.
Another Riverside employee saw major problems throughout the year. The camera at westbound Columbia and Main proved especially troublesome.
"In reviewing this incident, I discovered some very obvious discrepancies between the information in the data bar and the photographic and video evidence," Riverside program operator Paul Arnold wrote in a July 27 email to Redflex. "The data bar depicts the violation to be in lane 2, vehicle speed 35 MPH, however, the video clearly depicts the vehicle in the number 2 lane to be stopped for the red light, with very minute forward movement."
Arnold also noticed at the intersection of Van Buren and Arlington that the data box was recording the wrong yellow time. On August 17, the ticket claimed the yellow lasted 8.44 seconds, but the video showed it lasted for just around 3 seconds. On August 9, the yellow was listed as 23.11 seconds, and on August 23 it was 22.43 seconds.
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