6/1/2005Orange County, California Grand Jury Reports on Red Light Cameras
The grand jury in Orange County, California found serious accountability problems in the cities using red light cameras.
The grand jury in Orange County, California found serious accountability problems in the cities using red light cameras. The report released yesterday found that cities fail to track the amount of money they make on camera citations. The report also reflects inadequate tracking of accident histories at intersections that use the devices so that a proper analysis of their safety effect can be made.
The grand jury is a group of 19 or 23 individuals who serve for a year and in addition to their criminal trial duties can investigate county business. When they do so, they "may ask for support and advice from Superior Court, District Attorney's office, County Counsel or outside consultants." In this case, the report depends entirely on data supplied by the cities of Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana as well as the red light camera vendors Nestor and Redflex.
The report presents select accident data provided by the cities with cameras from just three intersections, and three intersections from just two cities without cameras for comparison. No attempt was made to identify the causes of any accidents to isolate whether rear end collisions were happening or if the crash was relevant at all to the camera. Even so, one of the cities without cameras, Westminster, improved the medians on its streets and achieved a greater accident reduction than that claimed for the majority of cities with cameras.
The report recommends that cities resolve the accounting issues, "so they can accurately determine the net operating effects of their RLCs and recover any lost revenues." It also recommends that camera citations no longer be reviewed by a police officer sworn to uphold the law, but by an "employee" to save money.
Full text of the report available below in 330k PDF format.
Grand jurors interviewed traffic engineers, as well as police, in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Beach, Westminster, and Orangeľall cities that do not use RLCs. They were asked why they do not. In general, representatives of these cities said they do not need RLCs because they do not have a red light violation problem that warrants use of the devices, or because they are using other ways to deal with the problem. Some of those methods are:Source: Report: Red Light Cameras (Orange County, California Grand Jury, 6/1/2005)
- Coordinating traffic signals, thereby reducing driver frustration
- Using four-way red signals so that everyone has to stop for a few seconds
- Creating better signage for complicated intersections
- Using greater police presence at problem intersections
- Replacing incandescent bulbs in traffic signals with larger, brighter light emitting diodes (LEDs) that cost less, operate more efficiently, and can be powered by battery for up to four hours in the event of a power failure.
- Creating double left-turn lanes where practical
- Installing LED systems, commonly known as "rat boxes," that can signal a traffic officer when someone has run a red light. This enables an officer to be positioned so he will not have to chase the offending motorist through a busy intersection, creating a potential danger for him and other motorists than the red-light-runner has already
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