4/11/2011California: Second Shot at Red Light Camera Tweak
California state Senate committee advances revised legislation that would slightly modify red light camera operations.
The California Senate Appropriations committee voted 9-0 on March 29 to advance legislation that would alter the way red light cameras operate in the state. State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) re-introduced legislation that had stalled last year tweaking some of the more controversial aspects of automated ticketing programs.
"There is not consistent agreement about what current law actually requires to operate an automated traffic enforcement system," Simitian wrote in his bill summary. "Furthermore, the processes by which an alleged violator may learn about and contest a citation are sometimes unclear and, in certain cases, appear to be misleading."
The bill requires actual red light camera citations to appear on standardized, state-approved forms. Currently, red light camera vendors issue notices that look like tickets to registered vehicle owners to trick them into disclosing the identity of the driver -- California law requires that only the actual person behind the wheel receive the ticket. The legislation would require a clear and prominent statement on such vendor mailings that there is no penalty for failure to respond.
Simitian cited the experience of Vera Gil, a constituent, as the motivation for trying once again to modify existing statutes. Gil 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. Simitian added a number of brand new provisions to the current proposal designed to force municipalities to certify that their goal is not revenue raising.
"Prior to installing an automated traffic enforcement system after January 1, 2012, the governmental agency shall make and adopt a finding of fact establishing that the system is needed at a specific location for reasons related to safety," Senate Bill 29 states. "A governmental agency that proposes to install or operate an automated traffic enforcement system shall not consider revenue generation, beyond recovering its actual costs of operating the system, as a factor when considering whether or not to install or operate a system within its local jurisdiction."
Most localities will have no problem filing such a statement, but the legislation would also impose a requirement that signs be placed within 200 feet on an intersection approach that has an automated ticketing machine. Current law requires signs, but not specifically on the approaches that are photo enforced. To keep track of performance, Simitian's bill would require cities to file a report on the number of right-hand turn tickets issued at each intersection. Private vendors and cities currently conceal this information. Right-hand turning tickets now account for an estimated 70 to 90 percent of citations issued, even though studies show such turns are not dangerous. Reports would also have to include accident figures from before and after camera installation.
A copy of Senate Bill 29 is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.