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San Diego Drops Red-Light Cameras 330

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-one-bites-the-dust dept.
gannebraemorr writes "U-T San Diego reports that the city has become 'the latest in a cadre of California cities turning their backs on red-light cameras — aloof intersection sentries that have prompted $490 tickets to be mailed to 20,000 motorists per year' there. 'Mayor Bob Filner announced his decision to take down the city's 21 cameras at a news conference set at the most prolific intersection for the tickets, North Harbor Drive and West Grape Street, near San Diego International Airport. A crew went to work immediately taking down "photo enforced" signs throughout the city. "Seems to me that such a program can only be justified if there are demonstrable facts that prove that they raise the safety awareness and decrease accidents in our city," Filner said of the cameras. "The data, in fact, does not really prove it."' I have to say I'm a bit surprised that my city is voluntarily shedding potentially $9.8M in revenue after objectively evaluating a program. I wonder how much a system would cost that could switch my light from green to red if it detected a vehicle approaching from a red-lit direction at dangerous speeds. Can you think of an other alternative uses for these cameras?"
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San Diego Drops Red-Light Cameras

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  • Re:So Floor It ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @05:15PM (#42773323)

    Exactly. This would be crazy stupid.

    It would teach red light runners that they can, and will, get away with running red lights, because cross traffic will be stopped. I can't imagine the number of rear-ends this would cause for those having a green light switching to Red with no warning. I'd rather see it raise a crash-rated bollard to the high speed red-light runner. If someone is going to get hurt, it should be the scoff-law, not the guy with the green light.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xclr8r (658786) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @05:15PM (#42773325)
    1 data point. I've received one, it was a weird intersection where the light was in the middle instead of at the far side of the intersection. It was a fresh yellow and I was turning right, I slowed down to look for a pedestrian then back to oncoming traffic from the left, it was clear and I went. I slowed down enough so that the light turned red before I started seriously turning. The light was out of view from my perspective and I took the right hand turn. A live cop would probably let it go after a license plate check came up clean. The ticket was not high enough to warrant me fighting it in court but high enough that it stung a little. Also the video when analyzed was clear from an outside perspective that a violation occurred. Now I pay really close attention to the lights and practically full stop on all yellows to the complete frustration of people behind me. Safer? I don't know but it does affect how I drive. I just hope I don't get rear ended.
  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lgw (121541) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @05:23PM (#42773385) Journal

    It may be hard to understand what's really going on here unless you live in CA, so let me try to explain.

    These cameras were originally installed to raise tax revenue. When the city you live in gets busted by the state for using illegally short yellows in order to increase camera ticket revenue, it's very clear this has nothing at all to do with safety.

    During the boom years, the police liked this idea - more revenue from the police dept meant more money to pay officers - what's not to like. But now most local governments in CA are either bankrupt (or like my county will be when Moody's changes their rules for rating Muni bonds), or for the first time in decades actually, finally starting to lay off employees in respose to the lack of revenue. In this new fincanial climate, the police hate these cameras! These cameras mean fewer officers are needed for the same ticket revenue, and that's just unacceptable. Since the cameras really aren't that great as a revenue source in the first place, they're being removed in city after city.

    Sad as their reason for removal is, it's still great that they're gone. At least in my city, you had no right to challenge these tickets - sure, the constitution says something about a jury for criminal offenses and civil matters over $20, so, hey, we declare these tickets to be a new thing, neither criminal nor civil, so there! There's very little a California city won't do for money.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by socialleech (1696888) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @05:44PM (#42773523)
    Closer to impossible to contest. I received a RL ticket for a car in my name, but I was not the driver. Also the visor was down and you could not completely make out the driver, it was obvious it was my girlfriend, and not myself. After attempting to contest that, the judge told me it was my car, and therefor I was liable for any actions taken in it. Found me guilty of running a red light(while I was at work, with proof I was there), I had to take a safety class(in which in instructor was incredibly demeaning, and knew if you spoke up, he could throw you out, and you lost your license for failing to complete the class), and took a few points hit to my DL..

    Now, I could have likely appealed this, and won in a county court vs the city court I was found guilty in; who has time to miss another day of work, and a possible double or triple in court fees because you just wouldn't shut up and pay your fine?
  • Re:So Floor It ! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @05:58PM (#42773639)

    In my city, red light cameras are also speeding cameras. City put them on all intersections that had lots of crashes. People do not speed through these intersections anymore. Number of crashes was reduced by over 50%. Number of serious crashes was reduced by 80%.

    Red light cameras, shortening yellow light to "catch" more people, etc. are not good. Speed+red light cameras and normal yellow duration, then put them on all the troubled intersections and you'll see positive results.

    Then again, the purpose of these cameras was not to make city money. The purpose was to reduced crashes which reduces costs for everyone. But then we have single auto insurance (gov't corp), so maybe the metrics are a little different. Seems to be working just fine though.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @06:06PM (#42773679) Homepage Journal

    The other option is moving to a system that works well elsewhere in the US. The red-yellow light. After a red, before a green, the yellow light comes on with the red, indicating a "fresh" green. You may go as if it's a green, but proceed with caution.

    That's not how it works. I grew up with them, and hold a license in a country where they're in use.
    Red+amber is treated as a red light, and you get the same fine as for going on a red light.

    The purpose of it is to make all the cars waiting prepare[*] for the green light, so they can all start rolling when it turns green. Yes, you read me right, all of the cars, not just the first one. Here in the US, one car slowly starts rolling, then the next one, then the next one. The lights have to stay green a lot longer as a result, which in turn blocks people going the other way, which in turn leads to idiots blocking the intersection or running yellow lights because they don't want to have to wait for three minutes for the next light.

    [*]: Like clutch, gear, or handbrake. All foreign concepts to the majority of US drivers, alas. But even with three-on-the-tree, you can rev up slightly with one foot on the gas and one on the brakes (another foreign concept), or just mentally prepare to drive in a second, even if you're not the first car.

    Yes, red+amber is a great idea. But not for the reason you think. And it wouldn't work here in the US, because it requires alert and active drivers, not slugs.

  • by Media_Scumbag (217725) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @06:10PM (#42773697)

    I know of a lawyer who beat a photo-cop speeding ticket in this way:

    1. He was driving in his wife's car and was perhaps a little over the limit, and the machine flagged him.
    2. His wife received the ticket in the mail.
    3. Under local law, since she owned the car, but was not the one in the photo, it falls on her to identify the driver of the car at the time, so that he may be cited.
    4. This, of course, meant that the lawyer's wife was being compelled to testify against her husband, which is illegal.
    5. The lawyer simply told her to ignore it (like thousands of other people do), as there would need to be a summons served to her.
    6. No summons was ever served, and the citation was dropped.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @07:20PM (#42774099) Homepage Journal

    You can get ticketed for being too slow on a green in some countries, especially where there's red+amber to prepare you. "Obstructing traffic". But not after a second, it's more likely if you finish applying lipstick or changing CDs.

    Near where I work, there's a light that's 2 minutes green in one direction, and 30 seconds in the other. Back in Europe, you would easily get 10-15 cars through in those 30 seconds, but here, you typically get 3-5, with the last car or two likely running a yellow light. Part of it is drivers not preparing for the green light, and part of it is waiting for the car in front to move before you even start moving yourself, because you've left yourself no room to start moving yet brake if the car in front is an idiot who doesn't move.
    I won't say that American drivers are the worst in the world (I've been to Cairo), but they're certainly the most sedate.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @07:21PM (#42774111)

    There was a pretty scathing news article a few months ago about Oakland regarding its policies on red light cameras.

    Basically, the story is that the city installed red light cameras with the promise of ticket revenue and reduced accidents. But like most studies have shown, the types of accidents just changed, from T-bone collisions in the intersections to rear-end collisions. But the revenue was there.

    So fast forward some time and there is suddenly a HUGE drop in red light violations (and subsequent traffic fines). What was discovered was that traffic engineers, without telling the police, had extended the yellow light by an additional second to reduce the number of red light violations.

    So what did they city do? It asked to revert the yellow lights back to their original timing to pick revenue back up.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @07:31PM (#42774171)

    And you should be driving defensively, instead of assuming everyone on the road is driving in the correct frame of mind.

    Red light cameras work in theory. They cause more accidents in reality. My coworker wrote a research paper on red light cameras. As a police officer in a past life, he believed they would be very helpful. But after his research, he changed his mind. It concluded that their implementation results in more accidents at intersections, with an insignificant decrease in fatalities (read: fatalities at all intersections were trending down during the study period, including in cities that did not have red light cameras).

    A better system is longer amber lights, or (my favorite) a flashing green that precedes the amber light. That's much better than screwing over your citizens, creating headaches for your city government, while the camera vendor profits from your lack of research.

  • Re:Hmmmmm..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @10:36PM (#42775113) Homepage Journal

    It's $9.8M potential revenue, $1.2M to the city after state and county takes their cuts(and an unknown percentage of unpaid or successfully disputed fines), $200k to the general budget after paying camera specific expenses for the camera company, officers to process the tickets, etc...

    Now consider that $200k up against the charging of the city's own citizens $9.8M. That's a 'efficiency ratio' of only 2%. Consider that taxes like property, sales, and income will have 'efficiency' levels of 90% or more, it's lousy. It's probably lousy compared to writing speeding tickets. That's $9.8M worth of pissing off your electorate vs $200k of income. I'll note that red light camera companies, when advertising to citizens, have 'safety' being something like 10% of the words. In presentations to city officials though, 'revenue' is present 5x as often as safety.

    Traditionally speaking, fines have been okay because 'most' people don't get them, or felt they 'deserved' the ticket, etc... Perhaps people fixated upon blaming the officer*, not the city/county/state. Perhaps red light cameras, with their delayed notification and impersonal delivery changes perception. For whatever reason, people seem to be irked more by the cameras. As such, lawsuits and campaigns over them HAVE happened, often costing the operating city far more than what any profit that could be produced in a decade. Especially if they were stupid enough to sign a contract with severance penalties.

    *I'm talking emotional reactions here, not logical.

    Wrote this up on the idea of a 'significant' portion of people mitigating their fines -

    Well, I actually doubt that; most areas have made red light cameras a 'civil' offense, not a criminal or even statutory one. So no day in court unless they actually sue the city. On the other hand, this limits what the city can do to non-payers - in some cases they can't even report the unpaid debt to the credit monitoring companies, prevent you from renewing your driver's license or car registration, etc...

    Thus they aren't going to collect every time. Consider these various scenarios(not any particular order of likelihood):
    1. Stolen vehicles - I figure the criminal isn't going to care he's running a monitored red
    2. Financial deadbeats - because it's not an officer issuing a ticket; as I understand it the worst they can do is ruin your credit. If it's already so bad you can't get a loan, who cares?
    2. Drunk Drivers and such who don't have a license anyways(sort of like #2), but if said fines can actually prevent license renewal.
    3. Mis-identified vehicles - My dad works for a company with a number of work vehicles. He's gotten tickets mailed to him for violations in a city over 300 miles away. For a car, not a company truck/van. BTW, they're tracked by gps and don't normally go past around 50 miles.
    4. Right on red - Dad has also gotten a few of these - where the ticket was mailed for the clearly turning company vehicle
    5. Wrong target - The company vehicle is stopped or turning right(legally), with a DIFFERENT vehicle clearing running the red.
    6. Illegal Alien - a sort of mix between 'drunk drive' IE no license, and financial deadbeat.
    7. Stolen tags
    8. Moved away from the address on the registration; never updated(so didn't get the notification)
    9. Moved between committing the offense and getting the ticket; sometimes out of state/country
    10. Didn't understand the ticket, didn't have the money immediately*, forgot about the bill by the time the money could be scrapped together, something else happened, etc...

    Roughly speaking, going by what Dad's said I wouldn't be surprised if the payment rate is under 50%.

    *For a significant period of my life asking me to come up with nearly $500 out of the blue would require waiting a month for a couple paychecks while I frantically lived off of cheap food and scrambled to borrow money.

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