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California: Legislature Considers Tweaking Red Light Camera Law
California considers adding enforcement mechanism to law governing municipal red light camera operations.

Joe Simitian
A committee of the California General Assembly last month began consideration of legislation that would make minor changes in the way red light cameras are used in the state. State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced a bill that he believes will increase the fairness in the administration of automated citations. Simitian is a supporter of photo ticketing who nevertheless believes the existing system suffers from significant flaws.

"[The cameras] raise issues of accuracy, privacy and due process," Simitian said in a statement. "I'm strongly of the view that traffic tickets should only be issued to improve public safety, not to raise revenue."

Simitian's measure requires signs posted at each individual photo enforcement locations in addition to a city's main entrances. Current law gives cities a choice of entrance point or individual location signs. Simitian would also require that cities come up with a "safety" justification, posted on the Internet,for each location where red light cameras are installed. The only significant change to existing practice, however, is a provision of Simitian's proposal that puts teeth into the existing law that sets out requirements for cities to follow in their ticketing programs but fails to include any enforcement mechanism.

"Any citation issued by a governmental agency is null and void if it violates or engages in a contract that violates any of the activities described," Senate Bill 1362 states.

The prohibited conduct under Simitian's measure includes: Failure to create uniform operational guidelines; failure to post "safety" criteria for intersection selection; failure to post warning signs; failure to establish proper signal timing; and failure to have law enforcement review each citation.

Simitian said that his idea for the legislation came from a constituent, Vera Gil, who faced significant problems in trying to clear her name after a private firm mailed her a red light camera ticket for an offense she did not commit.

"I was frustrated," Gil said in a statement. "Their license plate is one letter different than mine. It's a mistake I expect to happen, but it took weeks and weeks to clear up. There was no information on who to talk to if you believed the ticket had been assigned to the wrong car. I think that the cameras are helpful, but it can be a real thorn in the side of the person who receives it accidentally."

While Simitian offered sympathy for victims like Gil, his legislation offers no new procedural protection.

A copy of the bill is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 1362 (California General Assembly, 4/6/2010)

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