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Los Angeles To Turn Off Traffic-Light Cameras 367

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that the Los Angeles Police Commission has voted to kill the city's controversial red-light camera program, rejecting claims that the system makes streets safer while costing the city nothing. The police department says the cameras help reduce accidents, largely by deterring drivers looking to run red lights or make illegal turns while critics of the technology question officials' accident data, saying the cameras instead cause rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes and liken the cameras to Big Brother tactics designed to generate revenues. More than 180,000 motorists have received camera-issued tickets since the program started in 2004 but the commission estimates that the program costs between $4 million and $5 million each year while bringing in only about $3.5 million annually. Members of the public who attended the meeting urged the commission to do away with the cameras, which trigger seemingly boundless frustration and anger among drivers in traffic-obsessed LA. 'It's something that angers me every time I get in my car,' says Hollywood resident Christina Heller. 'These cameras remove our fundamental right in this country to confront our accuser. And they do not do anything to improve safety.'"
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Los Angeles To Turn Off Traffic-Light Cameras

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  • Re:Protip: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @08:26AM (#36398794)

    Actually, there are certain situations where it's legal to run a red light because of safety concerns. The summary even mentions one: When slamming on your brakes (to stop in time for the light) would cause an accident.

    But of course, the camera doesn't capture the scenario, just the fact that you ran a red light.

    Some places have even been accused of shortening the yellow light to catch more people running reds. I don't know if these allegations were proven, but I do know that I've seen some ridiculously short yellows.

  • by GeigerBC ( 1056332 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @08:38AM (#36398890) Homepage
    In general the data seems to suggest that yes, total crashes at the intersection will decrease (CMF = 0.8). CMF stands for Crash Modification Factor. Right-angle crashes will decrease (CMF = 0.67) and are generally more severe than rear-end crashes. Rear-end crashes may increase though (CMF = 1.45). Both groups generally tend to loudly argue their own point and both may be correct without listening to the whole safety argument. See [] and then search for "red light" and you'll see what I mean. All of this doesn't sort out the monetary costs and privacy aspects of the programs, but the safety data is reasonably easy to figure out so they can stop arguing over it.
  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @08:46AM (#36398950) Homepage

    1. There are multiple videos taken. Intersection/context of the violation (you crossing the line with the light red), front (including face), rear, and of the red light. If you still feel that it's not you driving the car, then you fill out the affidavit of non-liability on the back of the ticket that is mailed to you.
    2. Then challenge it. If the plate doesn't match, or is ambiguous enough that the OCR is incorrect, other evidence likely supports it. While statistically still possible, the likelihood that the make, model, style, and color match between two similar plates is pretty low.
    3. Since there is a video taken from multiple cameras, and the vehicle is shown from multiple angles along with the red light, setup or timing issues may happen, but are also easily reviewed. Which is why you can request to have the video reviewed with an officer.
    4. Review it with an officer. If there are extenuating circumstances, it would be shown on the video. Or take it to trial.

  • by sargon666777 ( 555498 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @09:00AM (#36399070) Homepage
    I cant speak for LA, but I know in Philadelphia the move on most of the lights between green - yellow - red was roughly 1 second of yellow... its almost impossible to not run a red light there...There actually are several cities other than Philly who have intentionally shortened duration of the yellow light to get more of these tickets.
  • Re:tradeoffs (Score:2, Informative)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @09:01AM (#36399076) Homepage Journal

    But this causes less tickets. So cities shorten the yellow light instead.

    Then this causes real, significant risk to human lives:

    HOW do you make way for an ambulance? There is no proof to defend you, and even if there was (say, ambulance logs) obtaining them is a great hassle and will probably cost more (in lost work time) than the ticket. So, drivers aware of that will just flip a bird to the ambulance driver and wait patiently for the red light while the accident victim dies in the ambulance.

  • Re:tradeoffs (Score:5, Informative)

    by paintballer1087 ( 910920 ) <paintballer1087&gmail,com> on Friday June 10, 2011 @09:03AM (#36399110)

    Actually, lengthening the yellow light probably increases running red lights as people think they have more time to get through. The better way to reduce accidents is to increase the all-red time of the intersection. *citation needed*

    Actually in a test done in California, lengthening the yellow lights by 1 second reduced left turn violations by 80% to 85%, and reduced straight through violations by 92%. []

  • by IMightB ( 533307 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @09:18AM (#36399274) Journal

    Since the entire system was pitched to them as a way to

    1) Increase revenues
    2) Reduce police workload
    3) Make intersections safer

    It does none of those things and evidently costs the city money annually on top of that. The only things that they do seem to do is

    1) Make money for operators
    2) Piss off everyone else.
    3) Erode your rights

  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @09:33AM (#36399424) Homepage

    From LA's Photo Red Light FAQs []:

    How does the red light camera enforcement work?

    The system uses multiple cameras placed at the intersection to record video evidence of the red light violation. The cameras capture evidence of the vehicle, the license plate and driver"s face.

    What do the video cameras photograph?

    The first video monitors vehicles approaching the intersection and provides a context view of the violation. The second video, recorded simultaneously, provides primary evidence of the violation. The third video captures images of the front and rear of the vehicle, including the driver"s face and the license plate.

    It would seem to me that there is plenty of context as to why you were in the intersection. And from the same faq it says that you can request a review with an actual officer.

  • Re:tradeoffs (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Friday June 10, 2011 @10:23AM (#36400216) Journal

    So which is better, a rear-end collision outside the intersection, or a broadside collision inside the intersection?

    The Federal Highway Administration found [] that red-light cameras increase rear-end collisions but reduce more severe right-angle collisions, saving $50,000 in collisions per intersection per year in medical and repair costs.

  • Re:Protip: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Friday June 10, 2011 @11:51AM (#36401710) Homepage Journal

    Some places have even been accused of shortening the yellow light to catch more people running reds. I don't know if these allegations were proven, but I do know that I've seen some ridiculously short yellows.

    They most certainly have been proven [].

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson